MANILA - A bill was filed in the House of Representatives seeking to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory.
House Bill No. 9252, filed by Cavite 4th District Rep. Elpidio Barzaga, aims to amend Republic Act 11525 or the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021.
Section 3 of the bill states, “The COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 shall be mandatory for persons as may be determined by the DOH and shall be given for free at any government hospital or health center, and as provided in Republic Act No. 11525, PROVIDED, That inoculation must, at all times, be science and evidence based.”
In a Zoom interview, Barzaga said he filed the bill for the benefit of the general public.
“Of course, lagi unang ipupuna sa atin, this will be discriminatory because it will affect the public health of the individual. Of course, we recognize the right to public health of every individual. Unfortunately, it must be subservient to the general public health kasi alam naman nating COVID naita-transmit sa general community," he said.
"Until and unless there will be vaccination, then we would not be able to solve this problem," he said.
“Eh paano tayo magkakaroon ng herd immunity kung konti lamang o marami sa ating mga kababayan ang hindi magbabakuna?”
Exempted from his proposed mandatory vaccination, as stated in the bill's Section 4, are persons with medical conditions, as determined by the DOH or by a licensed medical doctor.
The bill states that medical doctors will have the discretion, subject to disciplinary action by the Philippine Medical Association, to determine whether a person should get a medical exemption and will issue a medical certificate that will be attached to the Vaccine Card.
Barzaga justified his proposal by citing the benefits of vaccination both to individuals and the economies of countries.
"Consequently, a mandatory mass wide COVID-19 Vaccination Program is imperative to solve the present COVID-19 pandemic and achieve 'herd immunity' or 'population immunity'. The World Health Organization supports achieving 'herd immunity' through vaccination, not by allowing a disease to spread through any segment of the population that would result in unnecessary cases and deaths," he said.
"In order to safely achieve herd immunity against COVID-19, a substantial proportion of a population would need to be vaccinated. This would lower the overall amount of virus able to spread in the whole population. One of the aims with working towards herd immunity is to keep vulnerable groups who cannot get vaccinated especially those who due to health conditions become safe and protected from the COVID-19 virus," he added.
Herd immunity, the lawmaker said, can be achieved "by enacting legislation to mandate and promote COVID-19 vaccination, address vaccine hesitancy and instill public confidence in the personal, family and community benefits of immunization."
"The present Republic Act No. 11525 otherwise known as “An Act Establishing the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Vaccination Program Expediting the Vaccine Procurement and Administration Process, Providing Funds Therefor, And For Other Purposes” should be made mandatory to persons who are eligible to get the COVID-19 vaccination as determined by the DOH," he said.
Barzaga noted that vaccination laws are not novel, citing precedents in England, the United States and even the Philippines which enacted Republic Act No. 10152 for the mandatory basic immunization services for infants and children.
Malacañang said there might be no need yet to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory.
The country's stock of COVID-19 shots are not yet enough for all those who want to get vaccinated, said Palace spokesman Harry Roque.
Former Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral, speaking on ABS-CBN's TeleRadyo, said she is not favor of the proposal for now, saying that should be the last resort if ever, and that authorities should first exhaust all means to convince people to take the vaccine.
Sergio Ortiz-Luis, President of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, said none in the business sector he has talked to supports mandatory vaccination against COVID-19.
"Tingin namin, hindi magpo-prosper (ang bill na 'yan). Unang una, I think, kahit makalusot sa Kongreso, eh palagay ko, ive-veto din ng Presidente yan dahil sinabi ng Presidente na walang pilitan diyan eh," he told TeleRadyo in a separate interview.
It is also unconstitutional, according to him.
The Philippines aims to inoculate up to 70 million this year to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19.
So far, over 1.7 million vaccine doses have so far been administered in the country since the inoculation drive began on March 1.
On Monday, total COVID-19 cases in the Philippines breached the 1 million mark, of which, 74,623 are active.