First, the good news: the Duterte government has finally given the go-signal for the private companies to buy vaccines for their employees. The caveat, however, is that since the vaccines are still under emergency use authorization and not commercially available, the purchases must still be coursed through the national government.
Now the bad news: Companies engaged in the manufacture of tobacco and alcohol products and infant formula are barred from procuring their own vaccines.
A draft administrative order of the Department of Health (DoH) considers firms producing tobacco, alcohol and infant formula as in “conflict with public health” and thus they should not be allowed to buy their own vaccines.
The rationale given by the DoH is not only vacuous but it defies logic and common sense. Are workers in companies producing alcohol, tobacco and infant formula already immune from the coronavirus that they no longer need to be vaccinated?
Iloilo Representative Janette Garin described the plan to exclude tobacco, alcohol, infant formula and other industries as a “mortal sin and would add injury to a nation already struggling to contain the virus.”
“Who is behind this? Who is manipulating the department? Who is controlling Health Secretary Francisco Duque? Now more than ever the virus is teaching us to unite as a people,” Garin said. Garin, a former DoH secretary, said that vaccination should be inclusive in order to achieve herd immunity.
Some congressmen, including Joey Salceda of Albay, Stella Luz Quimbo of Marikina, and Ron Salo of Kabayan party-list have also criticized the DoH draft order.
One possible explanation, which was pointed out by Rahindra Abeyasinghe, representative of the World Health Organization in Manila, was that it could be used as advocacy for these products. For tobacco and alcohol, which are sin products, this could be true but not for infant products.
Indeed, the plan of the DoH smacks of class legislation, is immoral and unconstitutional and anathema to our sense of dignity and as a humane society.