President Rodrigo Duterte also rejected a plan to resume face-to-face school classes in some pilot areas until vaccinations, which have been set back by delays in the arrival of initial batches of Covid-19 vaccine, have been launched, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said.
The scheduled delivery on Tuesday (Feb 23) of 600,000 doses from Sinovac Biotech Ltd. was postponed anew after the China-based company failed to immediately secure an emergency-use permit from Manila’s Food and Drug Administration. Sinovac got the authorisation Monday.
Top economic officials have asked Duterte to consider further easing quarantine restrictions in the country starting in March to bolster the economy, which has suffered one of the worst recessions in the region, and stave off hunger. But Duterte rejected the recommendations.
"The chief executive recognizes the importance of re-opening the economy and its impact on people’s livelihoods,” Roque said but added that the president "gives higher premium to public health and safety.”
The Philippines has reported more than 563,000 confirmed cases of Covid-19 infections and more than 12,000 deaths, the second highest in Southeast Asia. The government has faced criticisms for failing to immediately launch a massive vaccine campaign for about 70 million Filipinos.
But the Philippine House of Representatives passed on Monday a bill that creates an indemnity fund to pay Filipinos "in case of death, permanent disability or hospitalization" due to serious side effects after receiving the coronavirus vaccine shots.
The Covid-19 vaccination bill, which includes a provision that allocates an indemnification fund of 500 million pesos (rUS$10.3 million), also seeks to hasten the government's purchase of the coronavirus vaccines.
"The claim for indemnification for serious adverse event directly arising from the administration of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine must be filed within five years from the day of inoculation," the House bill reads.
The proposed law is vital after vaccine makers Pfizer and AstraZeneca demanded an indemnification agreement and indemnity law at the last minute, causing the delay in delivering vaccines under the COVAX facility.
The House bill also allows the local government units to buy vaccines through a multi-party agreement involving the national coronavirus task force, the Department of Health (DOH), and the vaccine supplier.
The bill also allows provinces, cities, and municipalities to make an advance payment of 50 percent of the total costs to the vaccine manufacturers. It also seeks to exempt vaccines from customs duties, value-added tax, excise tax, donor tax, and other fees.
The bill tasked the DOH to issue vaccine passports to record the vaccinations received by individuals. - AP
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