MANILA — President Rodrigo Duterte was joking when he threatened to vaccinate people against COVID-19 in their sleep to counter hesitancy, his office said on Thursday.
"Joke lang po 'yon, kayo naman," said Duterte's spokesman Harry Roque.
"Siyempre naman, ang tagal ng mga pagpupulong namin sa Talk to the People… Para hindi kami makatulog, kailangan naman may kaunting joke," he said in a press briefing, referring to the President's late night taped meeting with officials.
(That is just a joke. Of course our meetings for the Talk to the People are long. To prevent us from getting sleeping, some jokes are needed.)
Duterte this week said people who refuse to get vaccinated pose a problem.
"Kaya hanapin niyo 'yan sa barangay niyo, akyatin natin, 'pag tulog, at turukin natin ang mga natutulog. Para makumpleto 'yung istorya,” he said.
(You should look for them in your barangays and let us vaccinate them when they are asleep. This is to complete the story.)
Duterte in June also threatened with jail people who hesitate to get COVID-19 shots.
Commission on Human Rights spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia then pointed out that the country's vaccine supply was still limited and that misinformation was driving hesitancy to get the jabs.
Asked if Duterte would ask lawmakers to pass a bill making COVID-19 vaccination mandatory, Roque said, "That’s for Congress to enact if Congress wishes so."
"But right now, because the supply has just arrived, let’s see... I think the level of individuals who want to be vaccinated is already very high, so baka hindi pa naman kinakailangan sa ngayon," he continued.
(It might be unnecessary for now.)
Authorities have administered some 50.9 million COVID-19 shots, including around 27.1 million first doses.
At least 23.7 million people or 30.81 percent of the target population have been fully vaccinated as of Wednesday, said Roque.