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Vaccine drive on fast track

A government health worker prepares a measles vaccination syringe at a secondary school in Phnom Penh
A government health worker prepares a measles vaccination syringe at a secondary school in Phnom Penh. Vireak Mai

Vaccine drive on fast track

The first phase of a three-pronged immunisation campaign against measles and rubella has already reached a full quarter of the four million children organisers hope to vaccinate, the Ministry of Health said yesterday.

According to Minister of Health Dr Mam Bunheng, one million children between the ages of nine months and 15 years old have been inoculated as part of the first phase, which was launched on October 21 with support from the WHO and other organisations.

“The demand for MR [measles and rubella vaccinations] has been almost overwhelming. Every school is having its scheduled vaccination session, thanks to great cooperation between health and school authorities,” Bunheng said.

Phase one will span Phnom Penh, Kampong Cham, Kampong Speu, Kampot, Kandal, Kep, Koh Kong, Sihanoukville and Takeo, WHO spokesman Sonny Krishnan said.

Residents in Phnom Penh are already partaking of the free vaccines.

Chan Serey Roath, 30, a mother of two living in Daun Penh district’s Phsar Kandal II commune, took her children to be immunised as soon as she heard the announcement made by health officials who visited each commune.

“It’s free and easy; all mothers should take their children to be immunised. As a mother, I have to think and focus on my children’s health,” Serey Roath said, adding that both her three-year-old and 10-year-old had been vaccinated.

WHO immunisation officer Richard Duncan lauded the ministry’s efforts, noting that a few colleagues in Phnom Penh were even having difficulty finding children within the specified age bracket yet to be immunised.

“High-risk communities are being targeted in the campaign such as the urban poor, remote rural migrant and ethnic populations, groups that typically struggle to access coverage, but during this campaign the Ministry of Health is doing an exceptional job,” Duncan said yesterday.

Sann Chann Soeung, the National Immunisation Program director, said the campaign was being advertised by national media as well as by word of mouth.

“Last year 3.5 million children received the vaccine,” he said. “In schools we ink the children’s hand to note the child has already been immunised. In the evenings, our officials are checking villages and communes for children yet to be vaccinated.”

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