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Emergency vaccine procurement proposal gets House panel okay

A House of Representatives’ panel approved yesterday the tax provisions of a measure authorizing local government units to directly purchase Covid-19 vaccines from manufacturers in the most economical and expeditious manner.

The House Committee on Ways and Means approved the proposed Emergency Vaccine Procurement Act of 2021, that provides tax exemptions for the procurement, importation, storage, transport, distribution, and administration of Covid vaccines by LGUs.

The vaccines will be exempted from customs duties, value-added tax, excise tax, and other fees provided that the shots to be acquired by LGUs “shall only be used for their residents and constituents, and not for commercial distribution.”

Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, the author of the bill, said the vaccination process is crucial in the fight against Covid as it would help the country attain herd immunity and return to normal.

“The next crucible in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic is the speedy procurement and effective administration of vaccines against the deadly disease,” Velasco said. “Time is of the essence. Each day of delay is very costly for the government, and leaves many of our vulnerable countrymen exposed to the dangers of this disease.”

The measure provides exemptions to compliance by LGUs with the procurement requirements under Republic Act 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act, in the purchase of Covid-19 vaccines and other much-needed supplies during the pandemic.

It proposes to waive the requirement of Phase IV trials for Covid medication and vaccine stipulated in the Universal Health Care Law to expedite the procurement of the medication and vaccine.

The vaccines, however, should be recommended and approved by the World Health Organization and other internationally recognized health agencies.

The bill seeks to allow concerned LGUs to engage in an advance payment mechanism for purposes of procuring Covid vaccines from foreign manufacturers.

The advance payment should not exceed 50 percent of the contract amount for the procurement of Covid-19 drugs and vaccines.

Following the advance payment for the supply of vaccines, the foreign manufacturer, in consideration of its agreement with the concerned LGU, shall undertake to deliver the supply of vaccines within six months from the perfection of the contract.

Another important feature of the bill is the creation and administration of an indemnification fund for the adverse events following immunization (AEFI).

Along with the monitoring of individuals who will receive the vaccine, Epidemiology and Surveillance Units of the Department of Health shall continuously survey and investigate incidents of AEFI.*PNA

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