October 2, 2023

The vaccine czar has trumpeted before the President that the first shipment of one to three million doses of Sinovac is arriving Feb. 20. Embarrassingly, he now admits the government has not signed a single deal with any supplier and no one has an idea when this will be done and how soon delivery can take place.
So what gives? The absence of an indemnification law has delayed the delivery of the initial 117,000 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine made by Pfizer AstraZeneca and BioNTech as this safeguard is one of the requirements of the World Health Organization before vaccines can be shipped through the Covax facility.
Why only now? Somebody goofed. The government handlers should have known late last year about this requirement when they were shopping for vaccines. Tagal na nakikipag-usap sa supplier si Mr. Czar, ngayon lang inaasikaso ‘yung basic and primary requirement of a need for an enabling law?
Of course, they are now saying they were informed of the indemnification requirement only during the latter phase of vaccine negotiations. Today, 600,000 “donated” Sinovac vaccines are supposed to arrive. Beke nemen. Let’s hope, trust, and pray that midnight tonight it happens, otherwise nganga ulit ang Pilipino.
Thankfully, a consolidated Senate Bill 2057 or the proposed Covid-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 is now pending in the plenary. The allocated national indemnity fund managed by PhilHealth is P500 million. It says vaccine manufacturers will be immune from liability should a serious side effect or even death after receiving the shot crops up.
The reason why the indemnification law has become a condition precedent is because the vaccines are still under emergency use authorization (EUA), with only limited short-term data available on the full effects that could arise from receiving a shot. This is the risk government absorbed when it granted EUA to the vaccine use. The end justifies the means, the benefits outweigh the risks.
One of the probable reasons or traumatic experiences why a law has become a requisite for pharmaceutical companies is the pending French drug maker Sanofi criminal cases over 10 deaths linked to the use of the dengue vaccine.
The Public Attorney’s Office has filed the cases in behalf of the families of the victims in April 2019 at a Regional Trial Court in Quezon City where it remains pending.
Flashback: Former President Benigno Aquino implemented a national anti-dengue immunization program and procured dengvaxia vaccines from pharmaceutical giant Sanofi Pasteur. However, the company recalled the vaccine in 2017, after studies revealed that dengvaxia may worsen dengue for those who have yet to contract the virus before being vaccinated. Since the recall, the death among children who received dengvaxia shots due to severe dengue came into fore.
That’s the problem when one negotiates without experience in the nuances of obligations and contracts and basic requirements of law.
Gen. Ramon Farolan says it all: “In 2017, it was incompetence that led to the tragedy of Marawi City where more than 200 soldiers and civilians died and a beautiful, historic city left in ruins after a disastrous five-month siege. These days, it is the same incompetence that has brought us to a situation where we are behind our neighbors in ASEAN in attending to the needs of our people and ensuring a speedy economic recovery for the nation.”
Right on target. Sigh!