Cambodia Leads Covid-19 Vaccination Among Developing Nations

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In the face of varying covid-19 responses worldwide, Cambodia finds itself one of the global leaders with almost 99% of adults inoculated in the capital city of Phnom Penh. 

This was reported by the Mekong Strategic Partnership, a finance firm geared towards sustainable business practices and environmental protection while helping clients invest in growth. 

Vaccine rollouts begin in February of this year, with the government ministers and the family of Prime Minister Hun Sen among the first recipients. 

Starting July 20, the jabs were already offered to foreigners living and working in Siem Reap free of charge. By July 31st, they began vaccinating children between the ages of 12-17. 

This places Cambodia along the lines of European countries like Denmark, France, and Lithuania in progress towards herd immunity. 

Adolescent vaccination is being concentrated in Phnom Penh, as well as the three hardest-hit provinces of Kandal, Koh Kong, and Preah Sihanouk. Meanwhile, booster shots have been made available since August 12. 

At this rate, the Kingdom is set to complete its vaccine program eight months ahead of plan, and almost a year ahead of neighboring countries.

A rough path for an underdeveloped nation

Nonetheless, the pandemic’s impact on the Kingdom has been far from lightweight. Its first covid-19 case was reported on January 27, 2020. 

It spelled bad news for a nation that is not known for the best healthcare services in the region. 

Over the next several months, schools would be cancelled, and travel restrictions implemented, dealing a blow on educational access as well as tourism arrivals—one of the country’s primary sources of economic activity. 

Even the Khmer New Year holiday, arguably the largest celebration of the year among the Khmer people, was cancelled by the Prime Minister. 

These were enough to spare Cambodia the brunt of the virus in 2020. However, the February 20 community incident in Phnom Penh steadily drove up the total caseload. 

The first death was recorded in March, over a year after covid-19’s onset in the Kingdom. In April, the Prime Minister heightened safety reinforcements when he announced prison terms of up to 20 years for those who breach quarantine regulations.  

At present, total cases number over 87,000 while the death toll lies above 1,700.

How did Cambodia got so far ahead?

Early on, the Khmer government had mandated non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) nationwide, and especially in urban hotspots. 

Establishments implemented mask wearing and social distancing. City clusters would get quarantined when positive cases arose (February 20 marked the third and most impactful incident); and strict lockdowns were implemented along provincial borders. 

Together, these bought them time in anticipation of the vaccination rollout. 

Program management was then done following ring-fenced distribution based on location. 

High-risk areas, as in those facing high economic and health impacts, were prioritized instead of following a more complicated process of age tiering and population categorization. 

This helped to minimize job jeopardy and protect employee health, which eventually contributed to the local economy’s survival. 

Moreover, as a nation Cambodia has a history of low vaccine hesitancy and strong vaccine mandates among large subsets of the community, such as public servants. 

The overall smooth flow of the national vaccine rollout may also be partly attributed to the greater sense of community responsibility and stoicism found in culturally conservative countries. 

Though unable to acquire mRNA Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, the government has been using what was available: a mix of Sinovac, Sinopharm, AstraZeneca, and Johnson & Johnson.

Positive outlooks for Kingdom of Wonder 

From the successful vaccine rollout, Cambodia now expects improved health outcomes as well as reduced pressure on a hospital system that is already under-resourced.  

As they move towards herd immunity, there will be fewer lockdowns, loosened restrictions, and less interruptions on various industry operations. 

This spells better quality of life for the Khmer people and foreign residents amid the global health crisis. 

Furthermore, there is implied greater support for rapid economic comeback, further foreign direct investment (FDI), and attainability of >6% gross domestic product (GDP) in 2022—just two years after covid-19 entered Cambodia.

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