Congress would need to pass a law to make COVID-19 vaccination mandatory, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said Tuesday.
He made this remark after President Rodrigo Duterte broached the idea of using the government’s police power to compel citizens to get their jabs.
“As long as there is a law, we can implement that so let’s put it into the proper context,” Roque said in Filipino during a Palace briefing.
“That’s the jurisdiction of Congress but the President can always certify an administration bill for such a law,” he added.
Citing vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., Duterte said total vaccine deliveries to the country are expected to hit 100 million by end-October. The steadier supply means the vaccination program may be expanded to cover even children.
Duterte also warned government employees to leave the service if they refuse inoculation, especially those at the frontlines tasked to transact with people and particularly those living in areas with enough vaccine supply.
Officials of the Professional Regulation Commission and Civil Service Commission were also set to discuss the President’s orders for civil servants, the Standard learned.
Meanwhile, the Philippines logged on Tuesday 13,846 new cases of coronavirus disease 2019, bringing the total cases to 2,522,965.
All laboratories were operational while seven laboratories were not able to submit their data on time, the Department of Health (DOH) reported.
The relatively low cases yesterday were due to lower laboratory output last Sunday, Sept. 26, the DOH said.
In his public address Monday night, the President was irked after receiving information that a number of government workers refused to get vaccinated for alleged fear of the vaccines’ safety.
“It’s right for the government, if you refuse to inoculate, go out of government. Why? Because when you are with the government you face people, people transact business officials, well, audiences or visits. What if you are a carrier? Don’t tell me it’s because of your religion. Or you just don’t believe it,” he said.
“If everybody does not comply with the vaccines and we can have a wildfire spread, then the police must go in and intervene in your private life so that you cannot be a danger to society,” the President added.
Duterte also chastised doctors and lawyers who try to convince the public against getting vaccinated.
If the people don’t want to be vaccinated, “doctors should just keep quiet. But there’s, you know, freedom of speech in our country. We are not going there,” he said.
“But if you go by the almost general trend all over the world, vaccination or to get vaccinated or inoculated is really the best defense for yourself and for your fellow man,” Duterte added.
Roque said several countries have turned to vaccine mandates to increase vaccination rates.
“The state really has the power to use police power to promote the good of the majority. But when it comes to the vaccine, let us wait, because we need a policy first,” he said in Filipino.
Roque also reiterated Duterte’s statement asking government workers who refused to get vaccinated.
“I guess the President will start requiring mandatory vaccination among those working in government. But this is without prejudice to Congress passing a law,” he said.
The immunization program currently covers five priority groups, including health care workers, the elderly, persons with comorbidities, essential workers, and the poor.
As of Monday, the Philippines administered a total of 44,361,285 COVID-19 jabs. Of this number, 20,583,580 are fully vaccinated.
Metro Manila had administered a total of 15,466,087 COVID-19 shots. Of this number, 7,081,010 have completed their doses.
The country aims to attain population protection by inoculating 50 percent to 60 percent of the population with a concentration in Metro Manila by year-end.
“Majority of those who were hospitalized were unvaccinated, no vaccines, serious. You get what? You are in the critical list because,well, if you are critical, then you will be intubated,” he said.
“So, I ask our kababayans to please get vaccinated when your turn comes so you can protect yourself and your loved ones,” Duterte added.