PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte said on Monday, November 29, that he is inclined in making coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccination mandatory in the country amid the threat of the new and potentially more transmissible Omicron variant (B.1.1.529) of Sars-CoV-2.

“I may agree with the task force if they decide to make it mandatory (vaccination). It's for public health. Now, kung ayaw mo, 'wag kang lumabas,” Duterte said during his Talk to the People Address.

"It's actually to protect public health... In some countries, mandatory na. Dito, maingay ang human rights... Now, under the police power of the state, I can compel you (to get vaccinated)" he added.

For those who would continue to resist vaccination, Duterte said they have a choice to either live longer or die early.

"Iyong ayaw magpabakuna, madali lang man ‘yan. Mamili ka: matagal kang mabuhay o gusto mo nang mamamatay?" he said.

"‘Pag kumapit ‘yang Covid na iyan, hindi pa natin alam itong Omicron, patay na. Mamili kayo: early demise or live longer," he added.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, however, suggested that while making vaccination mandatory remains to be just an idea, strict protocols on unvaccinated population should be imposed instead.

He said the National Government may impose protocols that will make it hard for the unvaccinated to live while there is a pandemic.

Año noted that the country already has sufficient supply of vaccines and it is being given out for free, which gives the public no reason to get inoculated.

“So while we cannot really impose mandatory because we don’t have laws, national law, but at least sir, we -- through the Section XVI of the Local Government Code, a local chief executive can -- can issue executive order or ordinances that will protect its constituents. And that is once -- is considered legal unless stopped by the court,” he said.

“So let them feel the ano, the pressure, the hardship, the difficulty and then they will now be -- they will be willing to be vaccinated. So I think sir, that’s the only way we can address hesitancy. Many of these hesitant people are actually based on fake news lang sir eh, sa dami ng mga article, ng mga reading materials na hindi naman sir totoo,” he added.

Several health experts attended the meeting, and aside from the strict compliance to the minimum health protocols, such as the wearing of face shield, frequent handwashing and maintenance of physical distancing, they suggested the ramping up of vaccination in the country, which will serve as a person’s protection against severe Covid-19 infection.

Infectious disease specialist Dr. Edsel Salvaña said based on the recent findings, the Omicron variant is currently the most mutated virus, in which spike protein is doubled than that of the Delta variant, which may affect vaccine efficacy and increase its transmissibility.

Spike protein is what the virus use to attach to the cells of the body. It is the main target of the vaccines.

He also highlighted the importance of proper ventilation, as well as the imposition of strict border control to prevent Omicron variant from entering the country.

The Omicron variant was first detected in Botswana, and then in South Africa.

It was tagged as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization.

The National Government has imposed ban on flights coming from Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, The Netherlands, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini and Mozambique where there were already local cases of Omicron. (SunStar Philippines)