Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Wednesday said a policy of mandatory vaccination would require Congress to pass a law that compels every person to be inoculated against COVID-19.
“There must be a law making anti-COVID vaccinations mandatory. In the absence of such a law, the executive branch may only use moral suasion, including the grant of incentives, to encourage widespread voluntary vaccinations,” Guevarra said, in a text message to reporters.
However, Guevarra emphasized that President Duterte was correct in his statement that the state may also invoke police power to compel people to have vaccinations as “such power rests upon the inherent right of the state and the people to self-protection.”
“This power, especially if accompanied by penalties or sanctions to enforce obedience or compliance, must be exercised through the legislature,” he said.
In his recent public address, the President reiterated his appeal to the public to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“Because if everybody does not comply with the vaccines and we can have a widespread wildfire spread, then the police must go in and intervene in your private life so that you cannot be a danger to society,” the President warned.
Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Duterte may certify it as urgent once lawmakers file the measure.
“That is the jurisdiction of Congress but the President can always certify an administration bill for such a law,” Roque said.
Senator Panfilo Lacson said instead of forcing vaccines on people, thegovernment could enforce policies that favor the vaccinated.
The policy of allowing only fully vaccinated customers to dine indoors at restaurants is one example of this, he said.
“But first, make vaccines available to all," Lacson said.
Lacson said the government will need to do a much better job in rolling out vaccines especially in far-flung areas, with the rollout there being as low as 16 percent.
The Department of Health (DOH) said on Wednesday that COVID-19 vaccinations for children aged 12 to 17 will begin on Oct. 15, starting with those with comorbidities.
“We are targeting Oct. 15, and we will start with the National Capital Region because they have a significant vaccine coverage so far (at around 70 percent),” Health Undersecretary Myrna Cabotaje said during an online briefing.
"We will be prioritizing those with comorbidities like respiratory and kidney disease," Cabotaje said.
“For the initial run, we recommend that children with comorbidities will be vaccinated in selected sites with clearance from their pediatricians or trained doctors, or for far-flung or geographically isolated and disadvantaged areas (GIDA), with clearance from on-site trained physicians guided by a checklist from the Pediatric Infectious Disease Society of the Philippines (PIDSP),” Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire said.
“We have to ensure that children have equitable access to vaccines. Eventually, as we get more local experience, we will be able to retool our current vaccinators on the additional precautionary steps on screening and vaccine administration,” Vergeire said.
Cabotaje said that two weeks after being rolled out in Metro Manila, COVID-19 vaccination for minors will gradually transition to different regions.
The children would be included under priority group A3, the DOH said in a statement, adding an expansion beyond this group will follow once adequate coverage of senior citizens has been achieved nationwide and vaccine supply is sufficient.
Malacañang announced on Tuesday that President Rodrigo Duterte had approved the vaccination of the general population, including minors, against COVID-19, starting this October.
The DOH said the informed consent by the parent or guardian and the child must be obtained before vaccination.
There should also be an available supply of Pfizer and Moderna shots as these are the only vaccines so far approved for use on individuals aged 12 to 17, the DOH said.
Almost 34,000 minors aged 12 to 17 years old in the city of Manila have already registered online for the coronavirus disease vaccine.
According to data provided by the Manila Public Information Office on Wednesday, the number of registrants as of 11 a.m. Tuesday was at 33,923 since the city opened the registration for them on September 5.
Meanwhile, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief, Gen. GuillermoEleazar, on Wednesday ordered all police offices and units to prepare to ensure the vaccination of the general population, including minors, will be done in an orderly manner.
Eleazar said they are also looking for more PNP personnel who have medical backgrounds and training who can assist in the government's vaccination campaign.
On Wednesday, the government received another shipment of COVID-19 vaccines from the United States, bringing to 70 million the total number of doses that the country has received since February.
The 391,950 doses of Pfizer arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport-Terminal 3 around 9:20 p.m. on board Air Hong Kong flight LD-456. The country is also scheduled to get some 2.5 million of Sinovac doses from China on Friday as part of the 5 million to 7 million doses expected to arrive this week.