Philippines signs indemnification agreements for COVAX vaccines

Philippine vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr said on Wednesday, February 17, that the government has signed onto indemnification agreements required for the delivery of vaccines coming from the COVAX global facility.

"On updates for the COVAX facility, we have signed and submitted requirements, including the indemnification agreements for Pfizer and AstraZeneca," Galvez said in Filipino during a virtual press briefing. 

Galvez had earlier cited indemnification requirements as a cause of delay in the arrival of an initial batch of 117,000 doses of Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine that were expected to arrive in the country by mid-February. 

The retired general, who was designated to lead the Philippines' vaccine negotiation efforts, said the indemnification agreements from COVAX was only given to officials last week despite earlier requests for details on the issue.

He denied Philippine officials were responsible for delays in the arrival of vaccines in the country, saying they were only on the "receiving end" of such requirements from the World Health Organization (WHO) and COVAX. 

Why this matters

The Philippine government's signing of indemnification agreements with COVAX paves the way for delivery of COVID-19 vaccines needed to start the country's vaccination program. 

Health and pandemic officials aimed to start the vaccination of frontline health workers in at least 34 hospitals this week, but delays in the delivery of vaccines from COVAX have prevented this. 

Galvez said that with the agreements signed, the Philippines is now waiting on COVAX and vaccine manufacturers to agree to these so that vaccines may be delivered. 

COVAX and the WHO have crafted indemnification agreements for countries considered Advanced Marketing Commitment Participants, or those who will be receiving donated vaccines.

This is separate from current efforts of Philippine lawmakers to pass an indemnification fund required for direct purchase of vaccines from manufacturers. 

Under indemnification programs, governments agree that distributing entities like COVAX, along with vaccine manufacturers, will not be held liable for unexpected adverse events.

It is a standard agreement imposed on all countries who agree to absorb these risks as vaccines developed against COVID-19 are still under emergency use authorization. – Rappler.com

Sofia Tomacruz

Sofia Tomacruz covers foreign affairs and is the lead reporter on the coronavirus pandemic. She also writes stories on the treatment of women and children. Follow her on Twitter via @sofiatomacruz. Email her at sofia.tomacruz@rappler.com.

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