No red tape: House leaders file bill to fast-track LGU COVID-19 vaccine procurement

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 10 2021 04:46 PM

No red tape: House leaders file bill to fast-track LGU COVID-19 vaccine procurement 1
An employee picks up a vial containing CoronaVac, Sinovac Biotech's vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), at Butantan biomedical production center in Sao Paulo, Brazil on January 12, 2021. Amanda Perobelli, Reuters

MANILA – House leaders on Wednesday filed a measure that seeks to fast track local government units' (LGU) procurement of COVID-19 vaccines by doing away with public bidding and other perceived red tape.

House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco, House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez, and House Minority Leader Joseph Stephen Paduano jointly filed House Bill No. 8648 or the proposed Emergency Vaccine Procurement Act of 2021.

Under the proposed law, LGUs buying vaccines may skip public bidding, a requirement under Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act, to speed up transactions. 

This mechanism, Velasco said, would ensure that COVID-19 vaccines are "procured and administered in an expeditious, effective, efficient and equitable manner."

"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," Velasco said in a statement. 

The proposed measure would also waive the requirement of Phase IV trials for COVID-19 medication and vaccine, as stipulated in the Universal Health Care Law, provided that these are recommended and approved by the World Health Organization and other internationally recognized health agencies. 

The LGUs, however, may only purchase vaccines that are registered with the Food and Drug Administration, or issued emergency use authorization.

Currently, only American company Pfizer and United Kingdom-based AstraZeneca have been granted EUAs in the Philippines. This allows their vaccines to be used in the country’s national immunization program. An EUA does not allow the commercial sale of vaccines.

Moreover, the procurement, importation, storage, transport, distribution, and administration of COVID-19 vaccines by the LGU would be exempt from customs duties, value-added tax, excise tax, and other fees, provided, that the vaccines acquired would only be used for their residents and constituents, and not for commercial distribution.

The Philippines' COVID-19 vaccine czar, Secretary Carlito Galvez, Jr., said last Sunday that the country expects to receive a total of around 152 million doses of vaccines against the coronavirus.

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