By Deighton Acuin and Archie Villaflores

PHOTO: Philippines Lifestyle

The proposed indemnity fund for the coronavirus vaccine adverse effects should be managed by Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), Health Secretary Francisco Duque III suggested on Thursday.

Duque raised this suggestion to the senators during the finance committee hearing on the subject of setting up indemnification fund for Filipinos who may experience side effects after receiving vaccine doses.

The panel was tackling a measure seeking to expedite the vaccines by authorizing the local governments to purchase COVID-19 jabs directly.

Duque then informed lawmakers that the PhilHealth board already directed the management to formulate a package for severe effects following vaccination of any brands.

“This will be covered by PhilHealth through that benefit package. But again, that was not included in the corporate operating budget for 2021. And so I would like to suggest that if any fund may be identified or a source be identified to fund this particular indemnification. Siguro ang dapat mag-administer nung funding na yun, yun nang PhilHealth para sila na yung gagawa ng benefit package,” Duque said.

“So instead of giving it straight to people as a compensation for whatever side effects they might experience, it will be PhilHealth, through reimbursements to hospitals, that will provide the cure for the treatment of the adverse effects,” he added.

But Senate Finance Committee Chairperson Sonny Angara noted there are still pending payable PhilHealth has yet to settle to the hospitals.

“Wala ng pera ang mga ospital, secretary [The hospitals do not have any more money, secretary]. They’re waiting for your payables. That’s the truth…It takes so long for PhilHealth to pay up,” Angara told Duque.

“That’s the reality on the ground. Umiiyak itong mga small hospital owners [these hospital owners are already crying] with the pace of reimbursements of PhilHealth and then we’re going to give more on their plate?” Angara added.

Responding to Angara’s note, Duque said he would talk with PhilHealth President and CEO Dante Gierran to hurdle the release of the pending payables to medical centers.

The Senate earlier filed a bill seeking for the establishment of a “vaccine indemnification fund” to finance recipients who would suffer any side effects after receiving shots.

At least 600,000 doses of the Covid-19 vaccine of China-based Sinovac Biotech are set to arrive in the country on Feb. 23.

The Philippines is also expected to receive 117,000 doses of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine through the Covax facility in mid-February while over 5.5 million to 9.2 million doses from AstraZeneca is expected by mid to late February.

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