Change of mind: Duterte now willing to get COVID-19 vaccine in public

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has decided he will get publicly injected with a COVID-19 vaccine after all, due to "public clamor," announced Malacañang on Monday, February 15.

"I think the President has said that he will now have himself vaccinated publicly. He only has to announce when it will be done," said Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque in a press briefing.

"That's of course in recognition of the fact that Filipinos are waiting for a signal on whether or not they should get vaccinated," he added in Filipino.

This is a 180-degree turn from Duterte's last insistence that he wanted to get the vaccine shots away from the public eye. Afterwards, Roque said Duterte required privacy because the President wanted to get injected in the buttocks.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III then said he would try to convince Duterte to take the shots in public.

Malacañang has not said which vaccine Duterte prefers, but Roque said the Chief Executive has decided on the brand and that his decision is consistent with earlier remarks that he preferred Chinese or Russian vaccines.

Cabinet members and local government chiefs have also been encouraged to get vaccinated in public in order to increase vaccination acceptance among Filipinos, a worryingly low statistic.

Only 32% of Filipinos said they were willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19, according to a Pulse Asia survey conducted in November to December 2020. Almost half of Filipinos shunned a vaccine, the same poll found.

What about Robredo?

Meanwhile, Roque could not say with certainty if the Duterte government will also include Vice President Leni Robredo among the list of top officials who will receive the vaccine as part of efforts to promote the vaccination drive.

"Hindi ko po alam (I don't know). I leave that to the DOH (Department of Health)," said the Duterte spokesman.

Robredo has said she would be willing to be given vaccine shots in public if it would help encourage more Filipinos to get immunized against COVID-19.

Roque said Duterte is eligible to be given vaccine priority, even if he were not President, because he is a senior citizen. Senior citizens or next in line to medical frontliners in the government's vaccine priority list.

"Let's see if the VP will fall under any of the priorities," said Roque.

Many other Cabinet members and local government chiefs being encouraged to get the vaccine in public are not senior citizens either. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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