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Asia Minute: Vaccines, Variants and Threats in the Philippines

coronavirus covid Outbreak Philippines
Aaron Favila/AP
A health worker inoculates a man with China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine at a temporary vaccination center in Manila, Philippines, Tuesday, June 22, 2021. The Philippine president has threatened to order the arrest of Filipinos who refuse COVID-19 vaccination and told them to leave the country for hard-hit countries like India and the United States if they would not cooperate with massive efforts to end the pandemic. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

Governments are trying various strategies to fight the slowing pace of COVID-19 vaccinations in many parts of the world—and in the Philippines, that now includes threats from the president.

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is threatening to arrest people who don’t get vaccinated for COVID-19.

Duterte himself called it a “strong-arm” tactic and it’s not clear how that would be carried out.

The Philippines has recorded 1.4 million coronavirus cases and nearly 24,000 deaths.

The threat about vaccinations comes as concerns are growing about the spread of the more transmissible Delta variant of the virus—which the Department of Health says has now been found in at least 17 cases.

This week, concerns about the Delta variant delayed plans to re-open classrooms on a trial basis in areas with low transmission.

As for vaccinations, the government says it has distributed about 8.5 million doses—roughly 4% of the population has received at least one shot.

Vaccine supplies are increasing. The government just announced a deal for 40 million Pfizer doses, bringing the total of doses scheduled for delivery to 113 million.

The Philippines’ population is roughly 111 million.

The shots come from five manufacturers—in addition to Pfizer, there’s also Moderna from the United States, AstraZeneca from the United Kingdom, Sputnik from Russia and Sinovac from China.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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