Manila Drops Vaccine-Purchasing Ban

Image: Malacanan Palace Presidential Museum & Library

Tobacco companies in the Philippines will be allowed to purchase Covid-19 vaccines after all, reports The Manila Times, citing a statement from the presidential palace.

The announcement follows controversy over proposed implemented rules and regulations of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination Program Act of 2021, which would have barred manufacturers of tobacco, milk and sugary beverages from procuring vaccines for their workers.

Those provisions have now been removed, according to The Manila Times.

In 2010, the Civil Service Commission and the Department of Health (DOH) issued a joint memorandum banning all forms of government interaction with the tobacco industry.

It is one thing to discourage smoking or lactose intolerance and quite another to destroy the livelihood and the lives of people who depend on the tobacco, milk, sugar and soda companies, which pay more taxes than the directors of PhilHealth have stolen.

Teodoro Locsin, Foreign Affairs Secretary

This memorandum was being cited by the DOH in moving to ban tobacco and select other industries from availing of Covid-19 vaccines from the government.

“The DOH, in its review, shall ensure that the tobacco, formula milk and other industries in conflict with the interest of public health will not be part of this endeavor pursuant to existing DOH guidelines and issuances,” the draft regulations said.

The move attracted widespread criticism. Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin likened it to the Nazi-era when leaders decided who would live or die. “It is one thing to discourage smoking or lactose intolerance and quite another to destroy the livelihood and the lives of people who depend on the tobacco, milk, sugar and soda companies, which pay more taxes than the directors of PhilHealth [Philippine Health Insurance Corp.] have stolen,” he said.

Health Undersecretary Maria Rosario Vergeire stressed that the administrative order leaked online was a draft.

She added that the Philippines is party to the World Health Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control that prevents tobacco-related industries from providing health-related services for marketing advocacy.