MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte need not explain his decision to get vaccinated against COVID-19 in private, Malacañang said on Thursday.
Duterte said that while he had "no problem" in taking the first anti-coronavirus shots that will arrive in the country, he did not think it was necessary to do this in public, according to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque.
This is a departure from Duterte's August 2020 statement that he was willing to be the first one to be injected with the coronavirus vaccine to prove its efficacy and safety. He was referring particularly to Russia’s Sputnik-V vaccine.
Asked what changed Duterte's mind, Roque said: "That's his personal decision. I don't think he has to explain."
To build public trust in the vaccine, the government instead holds press and public briefings, he told reporters in an online briefing. Vaccine hesitancy has been observed among the Filipino public in the wake of the 2018 controversy over anti-dengue shot Dengvaxia, which was said to have adverse effects.
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Duterte "is taking the route" of Britain's Queen Elizabeth and her husband in deciding to take COVID-19 shots in private, said Roque.
The 75-year-old Duterte, who has underlying health issues, belongs to groups vulnerable of developing severe symptoms of the respiratory disease.
Roque earlier denied that Duterte has been vaccinated against COVID-19 together with members of his security team who last year took unauthorized doses.
"Haka-haka lang po iyan," said Roque.
(That is just speculation.)
Malacañang will let the public know once Duterte has gotten the anti-coronavirus jabs.
“Sobrang popular ni Pangulo, so makakatulong sana to boost ‘yung confidence ng ating mga kababayan kung makita siya [magpabakuna],” Vice President Leni Robredo had said over the weekend.
(The President is very popular, so it will help boost the confidence of our compatriots if they see him being vaccinated.)
Other world leaders like incoming US President Joe Biden, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, and Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong were vaccinated against COVID-19. Singapore's leader even shared a video of his vaccination.