COVID-19: Philippine President Amplifies Appeal for Filipinos to Get Vaccinated

Dennis Jay Santos and Jeoffrey Maitem
Manila and Davao, Philippines
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COVID-19: Philippine President Amplifies Appeal for Filipinos to Get Vaccinated A medical worker holds vials containing doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine, during an inoculation program at the Makati Coliseum in Metro Manila, May 5, 2021.
Basilio Sepe/BenarNews

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is amplifying his message urging Filipinos to complete their COVID-19 vaccinations, warning that anyone who ignores health protocols could be charged for endangering others amid a new wave of coronavirus cases.

Duterte, who received his first dose of a Chinese-made vaccine against the coronavirus disease in early May, late Monday night sought to assure the public that more vaccines were due to arrive in the country, with 10 million doses expected to be delivered later this month.

But while the national vaccination program was slowly getting off the ground, he noted, there were many Filipinos who had chosen not to complete their shots while others were flouting health protocols.

“Please find time to go back and line there – line up and show your [health] card so that they would know that you are receiving the second dose, get the booster shot,” the president said during a televised cabinet meeting on Monday evening.

This was the second time since last week that Duterte urged members of the Philippine public to get inoculated against the potentially deadly virus, which was first detected in the archipelago nation in early 2020.

“I really am having a hard time convincing the Filipinos, especially the hard headed,” he said. “Kindly follow (the) instruction. That is not hard to do.”

Duterte also ordered local government authorities to “help us ferret out the persons who have not received the second booster until now.”

The president said he had personally seen people ignore health protocols, even as COVID-19 cases kept rising.

His legal adviser, Salvador Panelo, had warned that people could be charged for flouting regulations and potentially exposing others to the virus.

“If he knows that he is sick with COVID-19 and he goes about nonchalant, and intentionally ignores [protocols], it could be murder,” Duterte said. “If not, you could also be charged with reckless imprudence.

The Philippines is among Southeast Asian countries where infections have spiked lately.

On Tuesday, the health department reported that the number of infections here had reached 1,280,773 cases, with close to 5,000 new cases detected overnight. More than 22,000 people in the Philippines have died of COVID-19.

Carlito Galvez Jr., the government official in charge of procuring vaccines, said some 113,000 Filipinos had missed their second dose.

“We are really trying through the LGUs to get them back so they can have their second dose,” he said, referring to local government units.

“The second dose is important because this serves as our booster to lengthen the efficacy and at the same time strengthen the effectiveness of the vaccine,” he said.

To date, the government said, 9.3 million vaccines had arrived in the Philippines after initial delays. A majority of these vaccines were from Chinese drug maker Sinovac, while the rest were produced by AstraZeneca and Pfizer, and distributed through the Covax facility. The Philippines has also received doses of the Russian-made Sputnik V vaccine.

Despite supply constraints, vaccinations have been ramped up and 6 million people nationwide have received jabs, Galvez said.

But that is a tiny fraction of the country’s 108 million population. Experts have said that 70 million people must be vaccinated for herd immunity to take place. That is now unlikely to happen.

Filipinos who go out of their homes to work are vital for driving the economy, but they are “among the most vulnerable to the disease and must be protected,” Galvez said.

On Monday, government officials announced that more than 35 million Filipinos who work outside of their homes – including medical personnel and other front-line workers – would be targeted for COVID-19 vaccinations, starting this week.

Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said the priority group now included both state and private workers – including self-employed people.

The move, he said, provides “a much needed shot in the arm of the backbone of the economy.”


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