Press Release
February 25, 2021

Drilon: Blanket immunity for vaccine makers is against the law and public policy

Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon said the government cannot grant absolute and blanket immunity to vaccine manufacturers, saying "it is against the law and contrary to public policy."

Drilon backed Vaccine Czar Sec. Carlito Galvez who earlier said that the government cannot agree to a full immunity for vaccine manufacturers. Galvez revealed late Wednesday that there are vaccine makers which demand full immunity but said the government cannot do so out of concerns over malpractices and willful misconduct.

"Under the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act Congress passed last February 22, COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers are immune from suits for claims arising out of the administration of the COVID-19 vaccine, but not for willful misconduct or gross negligence," Drilon said.

Section 8 of the said measure provides that "notwithstanding any law to the contrary, public officials and employees, contractors, manufacturers, volunteers, and representatives of duly authorized private entities who are duly authorized to carry out and are actually carrying out the COVID-19 vaccination program shall be immune from suit and liability under Philippine laws with respect to all claims arising out, related to, or resulting from the administration or use of a COVID-19 vaccine under the COVID-19 vaccination program except arising from willful misconduct and gross negligence."

"The government cannot extend a blanket immunity to vaccine manufacturers as it is against the law and contrary to public policy," he emphasized.

The former justice and executive secretary explained that any vaccinee can file claims for damages, based on the vaccine manufacturers liabilities arising from willful misconduct and gross negligence. "It is part of their individual and private rights that cannot be set aside by the government," he said.

The Supreme Court has defined gross negligence as "negligence characterized by the want of even slight care, or by acting or omitting to act in a situation where there is a duty to act, not inadvertently but willfully and intentionally, with a conscious indifference to the consequences, insofar as other persons may be affected." Willful misconduct, on the other hand, exists where the acts "were impelled by an intention to violate the law, or were in persistent disregard of one's rights, as evidenced by a flagrantly or shamefully wrong or improper conduct".

Drilon said that the approved measure provides for an indemnity fund.

"The government set up the an indemnity fund to compensate any person inoculated through the vaccination program. The indemnity fund will take care of the costs for deaths, permanent disabilities and hospital confinements caused by vaccination", Drilon said.

The measure likewise earmarked P500 million of the President's P13 billion Contingent Fund for the COVID-19 National Vaccine Indemnity Fund. It will be administered by PhilHealth.

Drilon said the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Law will not only expedite the purchase and administration of vaccines but also sets aside money to secure the interest of the people against unforeseen effects thereof.

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