The government wants a P500 million fund for indemnification of Filipinos who may suffer from severe side effects of COVID-19 vaccines, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said Tuesday.
Galvez, who handles the vaccine procurement for the government, urged lawmakers to include in the proposed Bayanihan 3 law a provision awarding damages to citizens who may suffer from vaccine injuries.
“The recommendation of the Department of Finance is P500 million for indemnification,” he said, adding “we have submitted this indemnification proposal to COVAX, and we are still awaiting details from the lawyers of Pfizer for additional requirements.”
The vaccine czar said the indemnification agreement would have to be inked with the COVAX facility and each COVID-19 vaccine manufacturer supplying the COVAX facility, including Pfizer-BioNTech.
Galvez also said that COVAX, the World Health Organization (WHO) procurement pool led by the Gavi vaccine alliance, manufacturers are not liable for injuries as national governments assume responsibility for the use of vaccines covered by emergency permits.
“All countries signed the indemnification clause in which manufacturers won’t be liable, unless it is willful neglect and they have lapses. So we are asking for legislation [of] indemnification because this is very important,” Galvez said.
“We are still trying to resolve the issue,” Galvez said.
Common side effects of vaccination include pain and swelling on the spot where the needle went in, fever, tiredness, chills and headache.
He added that the passage of the proposed Vaccine Indemnification Law should address the impasse.
Galvez earlier said that the Philippines would be able to give COVID-19 vaccines to 70 million Filipinos within the year in a best case scenario.
1st generation contact
The Quezon City government has identified nine persons as first generation contact of a male person who arrived from Dubai on Jan. 7 and stayed in Riverside, Barangay Commonwealth.
Those who had direct contact with the patient were his companions at the apartment where he stayed; six staff of OYO 416 Lucky Hotel in Binondo, Manila; a Grab driver from Tondo, Manila, and a welding customer in an apartment in Quezon City.
None of them were tested positive of COVID-19.
But Mayor Joy Belmonte said they still have to go through the 14-day quarantine.
Also, nine persons were identified as second generation contact of the patients.
“They were individuals who were with the resident who hired a welder,” the city said.
There was a total of 196 general close contacts of the index case, including two passengers who took a ride in the taxi, where the patient used.
COVID-19 cases rise
The Department of Health said Tuesday there was an increase in COVID-19 infections in eight Metro Manila cities even though the National Capital Region (NCR) logged a negative case growth rate in the past two weeks.
DOH Epidemiology Bureau Director Alethea De Guzman said an increase in COVID-19 cases was observed in Valenzuela, Pasay, Malabon, Pasig, Makati, Navotas, Las Piñas, and Manila.
“It is not as big as the increase in the last two weeks but we still see the case rising. What
is the reason for the increase? It is caused when we see increased mobility, attendance and gatherings, presence of increased crowding during holiday celebrations,” she said.
A total of 226,513 cases have been registered in Metro Manila as of February 13.
The NCR logged a case growth rate of negative 3 percent in the past two weeks as compared to the previous three to four weeks.
The DOH also saw cases increase in Regions 7, 10, and Caraga.
De Guzman said all areas in Region 7 showed an uptrend in infections, with a “steep” rise in Cebu province and Bohol as well as in the cities of Cebu, Lapu-Lapu, and Mandaue.
In Caraga, all areas except Agusan del Sur showed a “continuous” case increase. Agusan del Norte’s healthcare utilization rate was also in the high-risk category.
In Region 10, Bukidnon has been seeing a “sharp increase” in infections since January.
An uptick was also logged in Cagayan de Oro, Iligan City, and Misamis Oriental.
Despite the case increase in some areas, the DOH said the healthcare utilization rate of all regions remained in the low-risk category
'Keep mutation down'
The executive director of the Philippine Genome Center said Tuesday it was important to contain the transmission of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) to avoid further mutations of the
SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes the illness.
“Mutations occur as part of the natural process of virus evolution. For us to keep mutations down, we have to keep the transmissions low because without a host, the virus cannot mutate,” Dr. Cynthia Saloma said in a virtual briefing.
Saloma explained that the coronavirus mutated slower compared to other viruses but its variants and mutations are more widely known due to the pandemic.
The PGC’s genome sequencing of 1,945 samples found that 582 or 30 percent had the B.1.1.63 lineage or the Hong Kong variant.
The B.1.1.7 or United Kingdom variant was also detected in 44 cases in the Philippines.
However, she added that the Brazil and South Africa variants, which have not yet been detected in the Philippines, may lead to lowered vaccine efficacy.
Senator Risa Hontiveros reiterated Tuesday her call for the immediate roll out of public employment programs as well as income support for displaced workers in the face of continuing mass layoffs reported by the Department of Labor and Employment at the start of 2021.
DOLE reported an additional 25,226 workers who lost their jobs in January due to permanent closure and reduction of employees in small companies.
This is on top of more than 200,000 job losses reported during the last quarter of 2020.
Aside from job loss, at least 108,089 workers suffered non-payment and wage cuts as firms continue to suffer from financial distress due to the pandemic.
In the face of the persisting unemployment problem, Senator Hontiveros is proposing that the planned food and employment summits should be set along the common objective of generating the ‘bakuna para sa ekonomiya’ so that the ongoing health crisis is not further compounded by income loss and scarcity of jobs.
Hontiveros reiterated her proposal for the government to create employment through PEPs and
income support for displaced workers in the MSMEs and other key sectors of the economy.
The senator also emphasized the need to expand the current emergency employment program under Tulong Panghanapbuhay sa Ating Disadvantaged / Displaced Workers (TUPAD) to accommodate more beneficiaries who can work on government projects as well as the allowable number of days of work to boost their income.
Apart from this type of employment, Hontiveros also explained that the government could hire more workers to augment public services in the health sector, environment, food security, and building climate-resilient communities.
Hontiveros also recommended the adoption of service-contracting for public utility vehicles (PUVs) to allow displaced PUV drivers and operators to run on company-contracted service vehicles for their employees.
Senator Christopher Go agreed Tuesday with the position of Metro Manila mayors urging the Inter Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases to reconsider and study further the planned reopening of traditional cinemas amid ongoing threats of COVID-19.
As the national vaccination program is awaiting implementation, Go advised Filipinos to remain vigilant by staying at home when possible and avoid unessential travels..
Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto said the government should listen to the country's health experts in determining how and which type of establishments should be allowed to open.
“Whether today or March 1 to me is not the issue. IATF should listen to our health experts. Our health experts should determine protocols to open our schools as soon as possible,” said Recto.
“I can't understand the IATF decision to allow cinemas etc to open but not our schools,” added Recto on the plan to open cinemas and arcades on March 1.”
Earlier, Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez said the reopening of the cinemas will revive the entertainment industry, valued at P13 billion, and bring back employment for approximately 300,000 Filipinos.
The industry shrunk to P1.3 billion due to the lockdowns in 2020.
The Metro Manila Council, however, opposed the proposal. Paranaque City Mayor Edwin Olivarez said that city mayors are apprehensive with the recommendation to reopen traditional cinemas.
Lopez said that the decision was reviewed by the experts in the technical working group of the IATF-EID, adding that extra protocols will be put in place, such as ventilation.
Theaters in areas under general community quarantine are also allowed to operate at 50 percent capacity only.
The government yielded to the suggestion of Metro Manila local chief executives and has set the reopening of traditional cinemas on March 1, 2021 instead, albeit still subject to consultations with the mayors.