Philippines’ Duterte Threatens to Arrest People Who Refuse to Get Vaccinated

The 76-year-old leader also said he would “inject the vaccine in your buttocks.”

Jun 22 2021, 7:21am

As vaccine hesitancy remains high in the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte threatened to jail people who refuse to get the COVID-19 jab.

“A person who is not vaccinated, you are a carrier – potential carrier – to protect the people, I have to sequester you in jail,” Duterte said on a televised address on Monday evening. 

“You choose, get vaccinated or I’ll send you to jail,” he said. “I will inject the vaccine in your buttocks.”

Vaccines are not widely available yet in the Philippines, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in Southeast Asia. Less than two percent of the country’s 110 million people have received two shots.


The country wants to vaccinate 70 to 80 million people to reach herd immunity. Adding to the uphill battle is widespread vaccine hesitancy among Filipinos, according to polls. 

Vaccine confidence plummeted from 93 percent in 2015 to 32 percent in 2018. Experts put much of the blame on a dengue vaccine scandal that hounded the country in 2017.

A recent survey conducted months into the roll-out of vaccines showed that only 3 out of 10 Filipinos are willing to be inoculated against the coronavirus, while only 51 percent of those surveyed said they are confident about the government’s vaccine evaluation.

The ethics and legality of mandatory vaccinations is tricky and varies across the world, though punishments are rare and mostly limited to fines. In May, a province in Thailand said it would fine or jail people for not getting the vaccine, according to the Bangkok Post.

Philippine Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra was quoted as saying he believes the president was just using strong words to stress the importance of vaccination.

"As a lawyer, he knows that not getting vaccinated is a legal choice; there is no law as yet that compels vaccination against COVID-19, much less criminalizes not getting vaccinated," he told reporters

Duterte previously ordered city and municipal governments not to advertise vaccine brands to encourage Filipinos to get whatever was available and cut down on crowding. The announcement came after the roll out of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine caused mass gathering in health sites. The government signed a 40 million-dose deal with Pfizer, but the majority of the jabs will not come until August. 

Critics assailed the president’s remarks and urged the government to come up with a science-based strategy to combat vaccine hesitancy. 

Doctor and former government advisor Tony Leachon told VICE World News that while he thinks the president’s statement is rhetorical rather than an actual threat, he urged “positive and clear directions of the vaccination program in the next six months” as opposed to “verbal invectives” that might confuse people.

Follow Anthony Esguerra on Twitter.


Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, Coronavirus, worldnews, world coronavirus

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