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Get vaccinated or get ‘jailed,’ threatens Philippines president

President Duterte’s threats contradict local health officials who maintain that COVID-19 vaccinations are voluntary

Policemen talk to residents in Quezon city, Philippines.
Policemen talk to residents who were rounded up for violating quarantine protocols in Quezon city, Philippines, on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020.
Aaron Favila, Associated Press

The Philippines has been fighting one of Asia’s most “stubborn” COVID-19 outbreaks, reports Reuters. A slow vaccination campaign pained with supply problems and public hesitancy has only contributed to the ongoing problem.

  • Of the Philippines’ 110 million citizens, only 2.1 million have been fully vaccinated, says The Hill.
  • The Philippines has received vaccines from China and the COVAX initiative, reports The Hill.

Late Monday night, Filipino President Rodrigo Duterte spoke in a nationally televised address to express his frustration with the country's low rate of vaccinations, reports The Associated Press.

What did President Duterte say about COVID-19 vaccinations?

Known for his “brash” public outbursts, Duterte issued a number of threats against any Filipinos refusing a COVID-19 vaccination.

  • “You choose, vaccine or I will have you jailed,” he said per Reuters.
  • “If you don’t want to get vaccinated, I’ll have you arrested and I’ll inject the vaccine in your butt,” he threatened, per CNN.

If that does not sound appealing, Duterte advised Filipinos to leave the country:

  • “If you will not agree to be vaccinated, leave the Philippines. Go to India if you want or somewhere, to America,” he said per the AP.

Duterte also threatened to have people injected with an anti-parasitic drug normally used on animals:

  • “As long as you are here and you are a human being, and can carry the virus, get vaccinated. Otherwise, I will order all the village captains to have a tally of the people who refuse to be vaccinated. Because if not, I will have Ivermectin meant for pigs injected into you,” Duterte said, via Reuters.

Some claim Ivermectin to be an alternative COVID-19 treatment, but the U.S., EU and WHO regulators have all discouraged this, says Reuters.

Are these threats serious?

Health officials and legal experts have contradicted Duterte’s threats. Vaccinations are fully voluntary and refusing vaccination is not a criminal offense, says the AP.

  • Duterte and his administration have been criticized for their slow vaccination campaign and their tough approach to containing the virus, reports Reuters.

How bad is COVID-19 in the Philippines?

So far, the Philippines has reported over 1.3 million cases of COVID-19 and over 23,000 fatalities, reports CNN.

  • “Don’t get me wrong, there is a crisis in this country,” Duterte said via Reuters. “I’m just exasperated by Filipinos not heeding the government.”