Press Release
November 9, 2010

Senate approves bill to institutionalize Hepa B vaccination among infants

The Senate, on Monday, approved on third reading Senate Bill No.138, institutionalizing the mandatory vaccination of infants against Hepatitis B.

Senate Bill 138 otherwise known as an "Act Requiring Basic Immunization Services against Hepatitis B for Infants," was introduced by Senator Pia Cayetano, chairperson of the Committee on Health and Demography.

"Immunization is already being practiced by the Department of Health (DOH) but the approval of this measure will institutionalize the vaccination of children against the disease. Under the bill, the health department will have to allocate a yearly budget for Hepatitis B immunization," Cayetano said.

Cayetano said the expanded immunization program of the DOH currently covers vaccination against tuberculosis, inoculation against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis, oral poliomyelitis immunization, protection against measles, and immunization against rubella. The most recent addition to the DOH program is immunization against Hepatitis B, which Cayetano hopes will become a permanent component of the program once the bill becomes law.

"There is still a lot to do, but we are getting there. We have accomplished step one with the approval of the bill which provides for vaccination. Step two will be awareness and step three will be providing health care to those who have already contacted Hepatitis B," Cayetano said. Under the measure, the senator said, newborns will be vaccinated against Hepatitis B within 24 hours from birth. Should the child be born outside a hospital or clinic, he or she should be brought to any available health care facility for vaccination against Hepatitis B within 24 hours after birth, and no later than seven days. The subsequent doses of the vaccine will be completed according to the recommended schedule of the Hepatitis B immunization, Cayetano said.

The bill also calls on all health care workers and practitioners administering prenatal care to educate pregnant mothers on the importance of immunizing their children against the highly contagious disease.

"The 2.5 percent allocation for the disease prevention program of the DOH from the incremental revenues from the alcohol and tobacco excise taxes, as provided for under Republic Act No. 9334, shall be used to supplement the existing budget," according to the bill.

The bill also mandates the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PHIC) to include basic immunization services in its benefit package.

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