Direct private-sector vaccine purchases bucked
Despite the lobby to allow the private sector to directly import COVID-19 vaccines, President Duterte’s chief economic manager has maintained the national government’s responsibility to lead procurement under the law covering mass vaccination.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III on Friday pointed to two reasons why the private sector could not directly buy vaccines, one of which was that “pharmaceutical companies insist on the government providing the indemnity.”
Since the national government shouldered the indemnity, its involvement is necessary in private-sector purchases, Dominguez said.
Dominguez added that Section 5 of the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 signed by President Duterte last month stated that “private entities may procure COVID-19 vaccines only in cooperation with the DOH (Department of Health) and the NTF (National Task Force Against COVID-19) through a multiparty agreement, which shall include the DOH and the relevant supplier of COVID-19 vaccine.”
Last week, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) urged the Duterte administration to allow direct importation without these conditions and restrictions provided by law.
The PCCI was worried about the slow national vaccination program amid a recent surge in COVID-19 infections.
Dominguez admitted that the spike in cases was certainly not helping as the economic team targeted to revert to a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 6.5-7.5 percent this year.
Last year, prolonged quarantine restrictions to contain the disease pushed the Philippines into its worst postwar recession as GDP slid by a record 9.5 percent. About 4.5 million Filipinos were jobless in 2020 as thousands of businesses closed down.
Economic managers had been pushing for a gradual quarantine easing to reopen the economy and encourage private consumption, which accounted for up to 75 percent of prepandemic GDP.
As far as vaccine insurance is concerned, the state-run Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) will cover possible adverse reactions or side effects, insurance industry leaders said.
“There is no formal private insurance complementation arrangement with PhilHealth in this particular Covid-19 adverse events following immunization (AEFI) compensation benefit announced by the government,” Philippine Life Insurance Association president Benedict Sison said.
“By the nature of life and health insurance products being provided by the insurance industry, however, any medical condition that arises as an AEFI, whether as a direct consequence of such vaccination or not, is a contingent event that these products inherently cover as part of their general benefit features, so long as such resulting condition does not fall within any of the exclusions specified under the plan,” Sison added.
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