Changing tune anew, Duterte to take COVID-19 vaccine in public
President Rodrigo Roa Duterte is greeted upon his arrival at the Malacañan Palace to attend the 51st Cabinet Meeting on February 3, 2021.
Presidential Photo/Simeon Celi

Changing tune anew, Duterte to take COVID-19 vaccine in public

Christian Deiparine (Philstar.com) - February 15, 2021 - 2:56pm

MANILA, Philippines — President Rodrigo Duterte is now willing to take the COVID-19 vaccine in public amid growing calls and just days after his spokesperson opened the possibility of him taking Pfizer or AstraZeneca's jabs.

Duterte, 75, initially shunned inoculation in the public's eye despite his pronouncement in August 2020 that he would volunteer to take Russia's donation of vaccines.

And less than a month after rejecting the move, Palace spokesperson Harry Roque said Duterte would now heed the call. 

"He only has to announce when it will be done," he said in mixed English and Filipino. "And that's of course in recognition of the fact that people are waiting for a sign if they should be vaccinated or not."

Administration officials have recognized the importance of publicizing the move, at a time when Filipinos' confidence in the jabs remains uncertain due to concerns on safety.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III told a Senate probe on vaccination efforts that he would try to convince Duterte, but later on sought to appeal instead for his privacy.

It is unclear how Duterte arrived at the decision of changing tune anew, which Filipinos have seen over the course of his more than four years in office. 

But in the few weeks that have passed, more and more of his men have volunteered to take the jabs in public, including Duque, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez Jr., as well as his Communications Secretary Martin Andanar.

Other top government officials have said too that they are willing, such as Vice President Leni Robredo and Senate President Vicente Sotto III, who are second and third in the presidential line of succession.

The administration is expecting the arrival of initial doses of Pfizer and AstraZeneca from the COVAX facility sometime this month.

Duterte has made known his preference for jabs developed by Beijing and Moscow, nations he has fostered close ties with in his years in office. But so far, the two Western drugmakers are the only ones that have secured emergency use approval from local regulators.

Sought for comment if the president would be willing to take these, Roque in a February 9 briefing did dismiss it from happening, but said the matter will be up for discussion among Duterte's physicians. Roque in today's briefing also did not make it clear if what brand would the president be taking.

Across the globe, many chief executives have now been inoculated on live television, such as US President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Singaporean Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

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