The Philippine government was not required to sign an indemnification agreement with Chinese company Sinovac to receive its COVID-19 vaccines, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said on Monday.
Asked by a reporter if the government signed an indemnification clause with Sinovac — similar to the requirement of Western vaccine developers — Roque replied no. He did not elaborate.
This week, Congress is set to pass bills — certified by President Rodrigo Duterte as urgent — that seek to establish an indemnification fund to compensate Filipinos who may experience serious side effects after being vaccinated against COVID-19.
“There will be an indemnity fund. In case of side effects, there is no obligation on the part of the claimant to prove fault or negligence. They can recover from the P500-million indemnification fund,” Roque said in a media briefing.
Several pharmaceutical companies, such as Pfizer and AstraZeneca, have demanded that governments shoulder the cost of treatment in case of possible adverse effects caused by vaccination to spare the firms from legal cases.
The absence of this law and late submission of an indemnification deal delayed the delivery of 117,000 doses of Pfizer vaccines through the World Health Organization-led COVAX facility.
Meanwhile, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the Health Department will use its savings to purchase an initial 50,000 doses of Sinovac’s CoronaVac vaccines. This will be on top of the 600,000 doses of Sinovac vaccines donated by China seen to arrive this week after receiving the Food and Drug Administration’s approval on Monday.
“Meron pong savings na puwedeng magamit para sa bakuna, at tinitignan po natin iyong Sinovac para sa karagdagan o sa labas ng donated ng 600,000 (doses). Diyan gagamitin ‘yan,” he said in a separate briefing.
[Translation: There are savings that can be used to buy vaccines. We are looking at additional doses from Sinovac, aside from the 600,000 doses that will be donated.]
He added this amount was not included in the loans from the World Bank and Asian Development Bank since Sinovac’s emergency use application took a while to be approved.
Sinovac received its emergency use authorization, but FDA Director General Eric Domingo advised against using the vaccine on healthcare workers and elderlies due to low efficacy rate in clinical trials. FDA recommended that the vaccines only be used on healthy people aged 18-59.