Two hurdles surrounding our vaccine procurement were surpassed last week as President Rodrigo Roa Duterte issued Memorandum Order 51 that will expedite the vaccine procurement process and after he certified as urgent pending indemnification bills.
Memorandum Order 51, which was signed on 18 February by President Duterte, grants authority to the National Task Force against Covid-19 (NTF) and the Department of Health (DoH) to make advance payments exceeding 15 percent of the total contract price for the procurement of Covid-19 vaccines.
It also grants authority to local government units to make advance payments that exceed the 15 percent limit, as long as they are authorized to do so by the NTF Chief Implementer and that their purchase is subject to the criteria and limits established by the NTF and the DoH.
Meanwhile, the President certified as urgent on the same day, 18 February, the enactment of a law expediting the procurement and administration of vaccines for the protection against the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).
It also proposes the creation of an indemnity fund that would cover compensation for those who will experience serious adverse effects to the vaccine.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has approved a P500 million fund for indemnification from where the compensation for those who will experience adverse side effects from the vaccine will come from.
I am one of those who are hoping that once this indemnity agreement is signed, many of our countrymen who are still having second thoughts will have the confidence to be protected against Covid-19 through vaccination. Once signed into law, it will make it easy for those who may experience really serious side effects of the vaccine to be compensated without needing to file a case against the vaccine manufacturer.
Because most vaccines are still in the emergency use authorization (EUA) phase, we cannot be 100 percent sure about their side effects, which is why it is important to add a layer of protection for both the people who will be receiving the vaccines and the vaccine manufacturers.
This is why the so-called “no fault indemnification” is a very important clause to be included in the vaccine procurement, especially for the vaccine manufacturers. Given that most of the vaccines available now are yet to be issued commercial use authorization, the “no fault indemnification” will give manufacturers assurance and confidence that their company will not be held liable in case of adverse side effects. That is why many vaccine manufacturers require an indemnification agreement before signing a supply agreement.
Signing an indemnity agreement with vaccine manufacturers is one of the criteria issued by the Covax Facility that participants need to comply with prior to the delivery of the vaccines. In a statement issued by the Covax Facility on 16 February 2021, aside from signing indemnity agreements, the facility also requires participants to issue a regulatory authorization for the use of the vaccines, and to submit a National Deployment and Vaccination Plan in Covid-19 platforms that were reviewed and validated by Covax.
Given this, the Philippines is inching much closer to receiving our vaccine allotment from the Covax Facility as we have already complied with the issuance of an EUA for the vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, and our national vaccine rollout plan has long been submitted to Covax.
On the indemnity agreement, NTF Chief Implementer and Vaccine Czar Secretary Carlito Galvez Jr. has said the tripartite agreement with AstraZeneca already includes the indemnification agreement. As for Pfizer, Secretary Galvez said they are still in talks with Pfizer’s country manager to work out a bilateral agreement on indemnification clause.
The issuance of Memorandum Order 51 and the certification as urgent of the pending bills on indemnification prove that the government is committed to ending this pandemic by having all eligible Filipinos receive the Covid-19 vaccine as soon as possible.