MANILA, Philippines - Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte on Monday threatened to imprison citizens who refuse to get a COVID-19 vaccine as the nation continues to be a hotspot for the novel coronavirus in Asia.
The country has recorded more than 1.3 million COVID-19 cases and over 23,000 deaths.
Duterte, who has long been known for his brazen public outbursts, said that he would have anyone who refuses to get the vaccine be arrested and have it injected into their "butt."
"Don’t get me wrong. There is a crisis being faced in this country. There is a national emergency. If you don’t want to get vaccinated, I’ll have you arrested and I’ll inject the vaccine in your butt," Duterte said at a state press conference on Monday.
He also urged anyone who is against getting inoculated to leave the country.
"If you will not agree to be vaccinated, leave the Philippines. Go to India if you want or somewhere, to America," he said, adding he would order village leaders to compile a list of defiant residents.
Duterte and his administration have faced criticism over a vaccination campaign that has been saddled with supply problems and public hesitancy. After repeated delays, vaccinations started in March, but many still opted to wait for Western vaccines, prompting some cities to offer snacks and store discounts to encourage people to get immunized with any vaccine.
Duterte blamed the problem on wealthy Western countries cornering vaccines for their own citizens, leaving poorer countries like the Philippines behind. Some officials said the bigger problem was inadequate vaccine supply more than public hesitancy.
While some nations like the United States increase their vaccination efforts and ease coronavirus restrictions, across much of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic is still a very much ongoing threat.
Despite data indicating that the pandemic is improving in the U.S. and other parts of the world, the global death toll this year from the novel coronavirus has already eclipsed 2020’s.
As of June 24, more than 3.8 million people around the world had died from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Globally, approximately 1.8 million people were killed by the virus in 2020. So far this year, more than 1.9 million people have already lost their lives to the deadly disease as of June 20.
Despite the improvement in handling the pandemic in many developed countries, medical experts say the goal should be getting as many people vaccinated as possible — not just in the U.S., but around the world.
In an interview with FOX TV Stations on April 6, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, said, "If we suppress it in the United States or in the developed world, that’s going to be great."
"Now, this brings up an important question: As long as you have virus replicating anywhere in the world, the chances of developing variants are considerable, which will ultimately come back and could perhaps negatively impact our own response," Fauci said. "That’s one of the real prevailing arguments for why we need to make sure the whole world gets vaccinated – not just the people in the developed world," he added.
The U.S. has committed to sharing 80 million COVID-19 vaccine doses abroad in the coming weeks.
The White House announced the final allocations for the doses, with 60 million shots going to the global COVAX vaccine sharing alliance and 20 million being directed to specific partners.
The excess doses are not needed in the U.S., where demand for vaccinations has plummeted in recent weeks as more than 177 million Americans have received at least one shot.
On May 17, Biden announced that "over the next six weeks, the United States of America will send 80 million doses overseas. This will be more vaccines than any country has actually shared to date — five times more than any other country — more than Russia and China, which have donated 15 million doses."
Earlier this month, Biden announced that on top of the 80 million, the U.S. was purchasing 500 million doses from Pfizer to donate globally over the coming year, with the first deliveries expected in August.
This story was reported from Los Angeles. The Associated Press contributed.