Rodrigo Duterte, the president of the Philippines, has threatened to send people to prison if they refuse to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
“You can choose: you get the vaccine, or I will send you to jail,” Duterte said in Tagalog, an Austronesian language used in the Philippines, during a pre-recorded address on June 21.
After admitting that he is growing exasperated by the “fools” who won’t get vaccinated against the coronavirus, Duerted also threatened to inject them with shots intended for pigs.
The Philippines began its vaccination program in March 2021, but there has reportedly been low turnout at many of the country’s vaccine centers. Of the Philippines’ estimated population of 111 million, only about 2.1 million people (1.9%) had been fully vaccinated by June 20.
At that time, the Philippines had seen about 1.26 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 23,749 deaths due to the virus, according to the World Health Organization.
In April 2020, Duterte warned that he would order the country’s police and military to shoot and kill anyone who violated a month-long lockdown on the island of Luzon. Since then, there have been several reports of authorities killing alleged violators.
Duterte said those in the Philippines who refuse to get vaccinated should just “leave the country” and go to either India or the U.S.
But these comments haven’t gone over well with Philippines health practitioners.
Harold Chiu, a specialist in endocrinology at the Philippine General Hospital in Manila, said in a statement to Al Jazeera that it is against patient autonomy to force and incarcerate people for refusing the vaccine.
Mia Magdalena Longid, a teacher and registered nurse, told the news outlet it’s unlikely that punishing people will encourage them to get the vaccine, but incentivizing the vaccine likely would.
WHO has said that countries should encourage their citizens to voluntarily get vaccinated but cannot coerce them into doing so if they refuse.
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