A House bill filed on Monday, April 26, seeks to make vaccination against COVID-19 mandatory amid vaccine hesitancy in the Philippines.
House Bill No. 9252 or the proposed COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act of 2021 would mandate “science- and evidence-based” inoculation for persons “as may be determined” by the Department of Health (DOH).
The bill was filed by Cavite 4th District Representative Elpidio Barzaga Jr, who said in a statement that “the State is mandated to make rules and regulations to protect the lives of the majority of its citizens.”
Barzaga proposed that exemptions only cover those with medical conditions and people deemed by doctors as safer without inoculation.
Under the bill, the DOH may review the recommendation of doctors to assess if “the standard of medical care for a particular medical condition” was followed.
The bill was filed after local surveys showed that Filipinos remain hesitant to take a COVID-19 vaccine. In a survey conducted from February to March, pollster Pulse Asia reported that 61% of Filipino respondents said “no” to getting inoculated.
DOH against it
In a separate forum on Monday morning, Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said the DOH stands by the recommendation of experts to give people the right to choose whether or not they will get vaccinated.
Vergeire said the idea of making vaccination mandatory had been raised by higher officials before the Philippines launched its COVID-19 immunization campaign last March. But it was not enforced, based on recommendations from the World Health Organization and its Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization to keep the process “purely voluntary.”
“We know we each have this obligation – what we call a moral obligation – that when we get vaccinated, we think not only of ourselves, but our loved ones, our community, and the whole population because we want to achieve herd immunity. But at this stage…with vaccines still in the developmental stage, we cannot mandate people to accept these vaccines because they are not really [fully] completed yet,” Vergeire said in a mix of English and Filipino.
She continued, “We adhere to the principle that the benefits outweigh the risks, and that’s why we are offering it to the population. But it will be their right to decide if they will receive this or not, based on how we explain this (COVID-19 vaccination) to them.”
Read the full bill below.