OPPOSITION SENATOR Leila M. de Lima has added her voice to growing calls for the executive department to get its act together on setting up a national vaccination database following authentication problems encountered by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), particularly those bound for Hong Kong.   

Ms. De Lima said the lack of a central database for the vaccination represents an “unforgivable oversight” on the part of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s administration, especially the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).  

“The DICT must act on this national vaccine database at once. Our compatriots no longer have livelihood because we were forced to have ECQ (enhanced community quarantine, the strictest lockdown category) once again, even our OFWs will have their chance to work taken from them,” she said in English and Filipino in a press release.  

The Hong Kong government declined to recognize the vaccination cards of inbound OFWs, citing a problem with authentication as it does not come from a single source.  

Vaccination cards are currently distributed by local government units (LGUs) as the national government has yet to establish a centralized system.   

Ms.  De Lima said the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of Labor and Employment need to “exert all diplomatic efforts to come up with even temporary solutions that would allow our OFWs to return to work.”  

At the House of Representatives, Quezon City Rep. Precious Hipolito Castelo filed House Bill 9957, which seeks to mandate the Health department to issue electronic vaccine cards to fully inoculated Filipinos.   

It will contain details such as basic personal information, COVID-19 vaccination record, and date of the holder’s last reverse transcription–polymerase chain reaction test result.   

The bill will serve as an amendment to Republic Act 11525, or the COVID-19 Vaccination Program Act.  

“Unfortunately, the delegation of the printing of vaccine cards to local government units and private entities made it logistically difficult to implement the issuance of uniform vaccine cards throughout the country. For every LGU, there appears to be different format and design for the vaccine cards,” Ms. Castelo said in a statement on Saturday.   

Under the proposal, the card can be accessed online and will be distributed free of charge. 

On Saturday, Bureau of Quarantine (BoQ) Deputy Director Roberto M. Salvador, Jr. said in a public briefing that the issuance of digital vaccination certificates would be launched in September. In the meantime, those who are scheduled to leave and urgently need certification may secure a yellow card. 

The International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis, also known as the Carte Jaune or the yellow card, is a longstanding official document under the World Health Organization.   

The BoQ, an agency under the Philippine Department of Health, is the country’s authorized distributor of the yellow card. These are usually issued to Filipino sea-based workers.  

Mr. Salvador assured that the Foreign Affairs department plans to coordinate with other countries to ensure international recognition of the “official vaccination certificates.” — Alyssa Nicole O. Tan and Russell Louis C. Ku