Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Pilot vaccination drive will target encephalitis

Pilot vaccination drive will target encephalitis

Pilot vaccination drive will target encephalitis

With Japanese encephalitis infection rates in Cambodia among the highest in Southeast Asia, and cases on the rise, the National Immunisation Program (NIP) is planning to introduce vaccines across the country by 2016.

More common in Asia, Japanese encephalitis is a potentially fatal viral disease that is the leading cause of encephalitis, or brain swelling. Transmitted by mosquitoes that breed in flooded rice fields, it is endemic to Cambodia, especially in rural areas, due to the prevalence of extensive mosquito breeding grounds, according to research from the World Health Organization.

Cases mostly occur in children under the age of 15 years, and although the majority of infections are asymptomatic, one in 250-500 cases develop into encephalitis, with 20 to 30 per cent of severe cases leading to death. In 2013, Cambodia had 41 laboratory-confirmed cases, a number that represents only about 5 to 10 per cent of the estimated total, according to Dr Kim Fox, WHO immunisation unit technical officer.

“[The disease] is a burden to Cambodia . . . and the numbers have stayed the same and not gone down because we don’t have a national immunisation program for the disease,” said Dr Denis Laurent, deputy director of Kantha Bopha Children’s Hospital, which independently administers the vaccine in their Phnom Penh hospital and affiliate Jayavarman VII Children’s Hospital in Siem Reap.

In a statement released on Saturday, Kantha Bopha founder and head Dr Beat Richner said 1,045 children in Phnom Penh and 825 in Siem Reap had to be hospitalised in January alone due to encephalitis – a 20 per cent increase from last year.

Kantha Bopha is advocating for the Japanese encephalitis vaccines to be included in Cambodia’s routine immunisation – a request that the NIP said it will grant by early 2016.

In mid-January, the NIP started offering the new vaccine free of charge in six high-risk provinces, deputy manager Ork Vichit said yesterday. “The vaccine is expensive . . . but we have now secured funding, we plan to introduce a mass vaccination campaign in the country.”

The US-based Program for Appropriate Technology in Health will fund the pilot program until the end of 2015, while the vaccine alliance GAVI will finance national inoculation efforts for five years starting in 2016, at the end of which the Cambodian government will take over funding, Vichit added.

“We recognise that the disease is an issue . . . and we’re expanding our efforts to prevent its onset.”


  • Draft law on state of emergency pending finalisation

    Prime Minister Hun Sen will lead a top-level meeting on Tuesdays to review the draft law on imposing a state of emergency. Meantime, he has decided to close all casinos in Cambodia effective April 1. In the press conference after the National Assembly met today, Hun

  • State of emergency on table amid pandemic

    Prime Minister Hun Sen, his deputy prime ministers and legal team will meet on Tuesday to review the draft law on declaring a state of emergency, as Covid-19 cases rose to 107 in the Kingdom on Monday. Speaking at a press conference after a parliament meeting

  • Stranded passengers petition UK for help

    Some 10,521 people have signed an online petition calling on British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and relevant officials to fly nearly 200 passengers out of Cambodia. The petition is targeted at 15,000 people. Most of the passengers are British nationals, who are stranded in Cambodia after airlines cancelled

  • Many in limbo as tension heightens

    As the Kingdom restricts travel and prepares for a state of emergency, some foreigners in Cambodia are scrambling for a way home. Foreign embassies in Phnom Penh are making efforts to get their citizens out, but cancelled flights have become common due to the coronavirus

  • Covid-19 Pandemic: Force majeure and legal consequences

    Is the Covid-19 pandemic considered an event of force majeure? The World Health Organisation declared the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak a pandemic on March 11. Following this declaration, the Ministry of Health and other ministries have taken various legal and administrative measures to prevent the rapid

  • State of emergency draft law set for NA

    A draft law aiming to place the Kingdom in a state of emergency amid the Covid-19 pandemic is set for a debate at the National Assembly (NA) after going through the Council of Ministers’ Standing Committee meeting led by Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday.