A year and a half after the pandemic started, throwing the entire world off into a “new normal," there may be light at the end of the tunnel as all countries are rapidly ramping up vaccination of its citizens, to move into a maskless, non-social distancing world soon. However, it may be a while before everyone receives a vaccine — or even agrees to take one. Anti-vaxxers, whether swayed by conspiracy theories, or just personal belief, are common in every country. In the Phillippines, anti-vaxxers are getting a barrage of criticism from the President of the country, Rodrigo Duterte. Duterte has announced that he is ready to extreme steps to make sure people are vaccinated - including threatening to jail them. Duterte’s threat to jail people comes as the Philippines battles one of Asia’s worst outbreaks, with over 1.3 million cases and more than 23,000 deaths.
“You choose, vaccine or I will have you jailed," Duterte said in a televised address on Monday following reports of low turnouts at several vaccination sites in the capital Manila.
The threat wasn’t the only comment which Rodrigo made which was met with flak. While addressing the nation, Rodrigo Duterte said, “Don’t get me wrong. There is a crisis being faced in this country. There is a national emergency. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, I will have you arrested. And I will inject the vaccine in your butt. You are pests. We are already suffering and you’re adding to the burden," quoted INQUIRER.NET.
“So all you Filipinos listening, watch out. Don’t force my hand into it. I have a strong arm for that. Nobody likes it. But if you won’t get vaccinated, leave the Philippines. Go to India if you want or somewhere — to America. But as long as you are here and you are a human being that can carry the virus, get yourself vaccinated,” Duterte, known for his flamboyant and controversial remarks also added.
Duterte’s remarks contradict those of his health officials, who have said that while people are urged to receive the Covid-19 vaccine, it was voluntary. “I’m just exasperated by Filipinos not heeding the government," said Duterte.
As of June 20, Philippine authorities had fully vaccinated 2.1 million people, making slow progress towards the government’s target to immunise up to 70 million people this year in a country of 110 million.
According to studies cited in local media, more than half of Filipinos are unwilling to get vaccinated against COVID-19 over fears the shots are not safe, reports Money Control.
(With inputs from Reuters)