Cambodia plans to administer a fourth dose of Covid-19 vaccine – a second booster shot – to 500,000 frontline health workers including members of the armed forces, according to Prime Minster Hun Sen.
Speaking at the inauguration of the new administrative building for the General Department of Customs and Excise on December 23, Hun Sen said the government will use a portion of Australia’s donation of 2.3 million doses of Pfizer vaccine scheduled to arrive in Cambodia by December 28 for the frontline workers’ second booster shots.
“I’ve instructed [Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth] and [Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng] to study whether it would be appropriate for us to provide a fourth dose to the frontline health workers and whether to use the Pfizer vaccine that Australia has provided to us,” he said.
Pornmoniroth confirmed that the working group was already holding discussions on December 22 and that they needed two more weeks to make a final determination on the question of fourth doses.
More than three million people in Cambodia have already received third doses to date and the Kingdom currently has 12 million vaccine doses in its national inventory that are ready for use in the booster shot campaign that is about to kick off nationwide.
“We need to consider giving fourth doses to all of the frontline workers, which is about 500,000 people including police, medical workers, the army, teachers, civil servants and customs officials – all of whom will need to be vaccinated – and we will use the Pfizer vaccines for that,” Hun Sen said.
The number of new infections in Cambodia remains low, with just four new cases reported on December 23. Hun Sen said two of the four new cases are Omicron, bringing the total to eight thus far.
“But please don’t panic. With the Omicron cases, we’ve taken those patients to the National Centre for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control and according to our follow-up inquiries, none of them has any serious symptoms or illness,” he said.
Backing up the prime minister’s statement, a report from South African health officials states that Omicron has caused 80 per cent fewer hospitalisations than the Delta variant in that country. Scotland’s health officials are also echoing those findings, reporting that Omicron has caused 60 per cent fewer hospitalisations there as well – even with their much larger population of elderly people.
Hun Sen said Omicron appears to be less deadly than Delta, but given that it is spreading at an incredibly rapid rate in the US, Europe and much of the world, he asked the public to exercise caution and continue to practice preventive measures and get vaccinated, including with booster shots.
Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine echoed Hun Sen’s call for people to get the jabs.
“Vaccines may not stop these infections entirely but they will still help protect our bodies from Omicron, a finding which has been confirmed by the World Health Organisation and scientists in the US. All of the countries with the ability to provide third doses to their people are now pushing to do so,” she said.
According to the ministry, Cambodia had vaccinated 88.98 per cent of the population of around 16 million as of December 22