Cambodia set to race past vaccination goal

A teenager receives a vaccine dose against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a health center as Cambodia begins its vaccinat…

A teenager receives a vaccine dose against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at a health center as Cambodia begins its vaccination campaign for ages 12 to 17, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Augu 1, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Rapid rollout, aided by Chinese doses, makes nation a standout in SE Asia

Cambodia is tracking well ahead of the pace it has set for COVID-19 vaccinations and now boasts one of the highest coverage rates in Southeast Asia.

The country set a target of vaccinating 10 million adults by the end of the year. By Monday, the program had covered 87.68 percent of the target population, data from the Health Ministry shows.

More than 9.85 million people, or 61.57 percent of Cambodia's 16-million-plus population, have received a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Nearly 8 million people have received their second dose.

The vaccination rollout puts Cambodia among those with the highest vaccination rates in the region and well above the world's average of 33 percent.

"The rollout has been remarkable for a country at Cambodia's level of development," said Stephen Higgins, managing partner of consulting firm Mekong Strategic Partners, adding that the country's vaccination rate is also among the best globally.

Higgins said the key reasons behind Cambodia's vaccination success include the ability to source sufficient vaccines from multiple sources, a simple geography-based rather than age-based rollout program, and a holistic approach supported by the government as well as the military.

In a report published on Aug 16, the consultancy projected that Cambodia will fully vaccinate 70 percent of its entire population by September, up to a year ahead of its neighbors.

In contrast, the Philippines is expected to reach the same level of vaccination by March next year, and Vietnam is forecast to complete its rollout by September 2022.

"Cambodia realized early on that the best vaccine is the one that you can actually get," said Higgins, noting that Chinese vaccines like the ones from Sinovac Biotech and Sinopharm have played a key role in getting Cambodians protected.

Cambodia launched its vaccination campaign on Feb 10 after receiving a batch of 600,000 vaccine doses donated by China, the first country to provide vaccine donations and commercial procurement arrangements for the country.

Chheang Vannarith, president of Asian Vision Institute, a think tank in Phnom Penh, said Cambodia has been engaging with several partners, especially China, on vaccine procurement. The people are well-informed about the importance of getting vaccinated, so there was no resistance against vaccination, he said.

Cooperation framework

"About 90 percent of vaccines in Cambodia are from China and the rest are mainly from the COVAX cooperation framework," he said.

As of Monday, China had delivered 22.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Cambodia, including 3.8 million doses as donations, according to the Chinese embassy in Phnom Penh.

Cambodia reported 466 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, bringing the total tally to 90,107, Health Ministry data shows.

Heng Kimkong, visiting senior research fellow of think tank the Cambodia Development Center, said the high vaccination rate and other anti-pandemic measures have helped Cambodia reduce the number of daily new infections recently.

He said the success of the vaccination rollout is vital to Cambodia's efforts to contain COVID-19 and to revive its economy, which contracted 3.1 percent in 2020.

The Asian Development Bank said in April that Cambodia's economy is projected to grow 4 percent this year and 5.5 percent in 2022.

Chheang Vannarith said the recovery of Cambodia's economy will also depend on the pandemic situation in neighboring countries.

On Monday, Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City went into a tightened lockdown to battle its worst outbreak of the coronavirus.

The city and the entire southern region of Vietnam had already been in lockdown since July when the Delta variant started to spread rapidly. Public gatherings were banned, nonessential businesses closed and people were asked to leave their homes only to buy food or for urgent matters.

Also on Monday, the Philippines reported its highest single-day spike, with 18,332 new infections, as the Department of Health reported community transmission of the Delta variant was occurring in Metro Manila and the surrounding region.

The Philippines, which has around 110 million people, has tested over 17 million people since the outbreak began.

Agencies and Xinhua contributed to this story.

This news comes from: China Daily

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