Prime Minister Hun Sen on September 17 announced that he had advised the national Covid-19 vaccination committee to determine whether to make a third dose – or booster shot – a part of the standard inoculation protocol for Covid-19.
“We have to adopt this as a standard, or else herd immunity will remain elusive,” he proclaimed at the launch of Covid-19 vaccination campaign for children aged 6-11.
Hun Sen cautioned against using antibody tests to check for immunity from SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen that causes Covid-19, citing inconsistent results from person to person.
“But no matter what, being vaccinated is better than not. My doctor drew my blood to test for antibodies and observed that I had low levels,” he said. The prime minister took his booster shot on September 14.
Phnom Penh and Kandal province next month are collectively set to be the first region to make booster shots available to the general public aged 18 and over. Other provinces will later allow people to get a third dose four months after their last jab.
The prime minister said Cambodia is also keeping tabs on global developments to determine whether a fourth dose is necessary, noting that the government would shoulder the costs of acquiring additional jabs as needed.
“We have to keep an eye on this and follow pertinent developments around the world and the observed immunogenicity of an additional dose, as well as recommendations from the World Health Organisation.
“I understand that one of our foreign allies has already started administering a fourth dose, but I don’t want to name the country,” Hun Sen said, in reference to Turkey. Israel has also placed a fourth dose on the table.
The prime minister also signalled that he was keen to allow all businesses to reopen soon if the Covid-19 situation shows significant signs of improvement.
“No one wants to see closures like this, our people want to go out. I first want to reopen the education sector, followed by the service industry … [including] domestic tourism, our people want to travel on Saturday, Sunday and public holidays,” he said.
He pointed out that critical Covid-19 hospitalisations have trended down as vaccination rates rise.
The prime minister advocated for home-based care for patients with milder symptoms, but stressed that treatment facilities would remain available to those who need them.
He also called on Minister of Education, Youth and Sport Hang Chuon Naron to work out an arrangement with Beijing for Cambodian students enrolled in Chinese universities to return to China and resume in-person classes.