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Jabs could swell 2022 GDP by 6%: think-tank

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A health worker administers the Sinovac vaccine to a woman in Phnom Penh last week. Heng Chivoan

Jabs could swell 2022 GDP by 6%: think-tank

Cambodia's “well-strategised and rapidly-executed” Covid-19 vaccination programme are set to underpin economic growth that may top six per cent next year, eclipsing the preponderance of regional and global peers, according to a new report from consulting firm Mekong Strategic Partners Co Ltd (MSP).

The rollout of jabs has firmly positioned the Kingdom among the global leaders in vaccinations, MSP said, adding that around 99 per cent of adults in the capital are fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus, one of the highest rates in the world.

“Cambodia’s vaccine rollout is remarkable, dramatically outperforming many developed and developing nations. Cambodia should complete its vaccine programme eight months ahead of plan and up to 12 months before neighbouring countries.

“Cambodia is now one of the first countries in the world to be rolling out booster shots and vaccinating children. Economic evidence is clear that high vaccination rates improve economic outcomes as well as health outcomes – Cambodia is on track for greater than six per cent GDP [gross domestic product] growth in 2022,” it said.

MSP noted that while Cambodians have not had access to mRNA-based coronavirus vaccines such as those developed by Pfizer or Moderna, the Kingdom has procured jabs “that have a demonstrated impact on hospitalisations and death rates”.

MSP managing partner Stephen Higgins told The Post on August 19 that the prompt vaccination rollout bears a very positive signal for a fast reopening of the economy.

“When you have [Covid-19] cases, and in particular deaths, growing exponentially as they are in neighbouring countries, then you need to prioritise health and have fairly tight restrictions in place.

“Once you’ve got the population fully vaccinated, you have more choices around opening up the economy, and letting people return to more normal lives. It is time for Cambodia to now tip the scales in favour of opening up more.

“While protecting the health of the community is paramount, we also shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that many people are seeing their lives badly damaged by the restrictions in place,” he said.

Despite the impressive vaccination drive, the latest wave of SARS-CoV-2 – the pathogen that causes Covid-19 – has not been significantly diminished, and the spread of the virus’ Delta variant first detected in India prompted the government to approve a third booster dose of vaccines.

Higgins stressed that the February 20 outbreak had been “obviously disappointing”, and lauded the overall government response to the pandemic, providing as examples the vaccination programme and macroeconomic measures brought in to counter the fallout of the pandemic.

While recognising that the Delta variant could remain endemic in the Kingdom, he offered a silver lining in the aftermath of the February 20 event. “It has meant Cambodia has been much better prepared for the latest wave than our neighbours, who are now seeing devastating case numbers,” he said.

“Delta doesn’t have to result in negative economic outcomes. The UK saw Delta run rampant, but because of their vaccination levels, they’ve been able to open up and deliver pretty good economic numbers.

“From a selfish perspective, being able to roll out boosters already is clearly a good thing for Cambodia. Society is always making trade-offs. For example, you could eliminate road deaths by reducing the speed limit to 10km/h, but society would deem the cost of that too high both economically and in terms of day-to-day impact,” Higgins said.

According to the Ministry of Health, as of August 17 Cambodia had vaccinated more than 8.5 million people – or 85.23 per cent of the targeted adult population of 10 million – and 32.25 per cent of the 12-17 age group of nearly two million.

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