Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte signed the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 into law on Friday, giving vaccine makers indemnity if their COVID-19 vaccines cause adverse side effects.
Although the number of COVID-19 infections in Philippines is one of the highest in Asia, the Philippines is one of the last Southeastern Asian countries to receive its first set of vaccines. The COVAX facility donated 117,000 doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and the government planned to administer those doses mid-February. However, the delivery of those doses was delayed because of the lack of an indemnification program.
The new law signed Friday gives vaccine makers indemnity if their COVID-19 vaccines cause adverse side effects, and it expedites the vaccine procurement process. In addition to giving manufacturers immunity from lawsuits arising from the administration of the vaccine and expediting the purchase and administration of vaccines, the bill also creates an indemnity fund. This fund is to provide compensation if serious adverse effects occur, and it has 500 million pesos ($10.26 million).
On the passage of the bill, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque stated: “We are confident that the signing of this landmark piece of legislation would expedite the procurement and administration of vaccines for the protection against COVID-19.”
China has donated 600,000 doses of Sinovac Biotech’s vaccines, which will be delivered on Sunday. The Philippines will also begin vaccinating healthcare workers and soldiers. The Philippines is currently negotiating supply agreements with seven manufacturers for 148 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. If these doses are obtained, two-thirds of the population in the Philippines can be vaccinated.