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PM: Expedite Covid booster vaccinations

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A medical worker administers a booster jab to a woman in Phnom Penh’s Meanchey district last year. Heng Chivoan

PM: Expedite Covid booster vaccinations

Prime Minister Hun Sen urged the Ministry of Health and relevant authorities across the Kingdom to expedite vaccinations with booster doses now that the Omicron coronavirus variant has begun circulating within the community.

Hun Sen made the remarks on January 10 at the opening of a 85km stretch of National Road 5 connecting Battambang province to neighbouring Banteay Meanchey’s Sisophon town.

The premier also confirmed that he had ordered an additional five million Covid-19 vaccine doses for the people to keep current with their booster jabs.

“I request that each province work hard to deliver third doses, or booster shots, to people to keep pace with the outbreak of Omicron that has now entered the community,” he said. “There is no better option, so every province has to work hard to speed up third-dose vaccinations. We are also still providing first doses to anybody who hasn’t been vaccinated yet.”

At the same time, Hun Sen also issued an order to the health ministry allowing people from anywhere in the Kingdom to come to the capital and get the fourth dose using the Pfizer jabs.

“The Pfizer vaccines cannot be taken out to the countryside as they require cold storage at lower than 80 degrees Celsius. I have issued an order to inoculate all citizens from anywhere with Pfizer in Phnom Penh should they request it.

“If anyone wants to get the Pfizer vaccines, then they can come to the capital to get it because if the jabs are shipped to the provinces that don’t have the right kind of freezers, they will be ruined,” he said.

Hun Sen said the importance of third and fourth doses had been elevated by the arrival of Omicron, which is highly contagious.

“I will get my fourth dose on January 14 because on January 23 I will leave for the United Arab Emirates. Therefore I have to protect myself just in case the Omicron variant infects me in Dubai,” he said.

Before Hun Sen left for his trip to Myanmar, he said he was tested for Covid-19 and also had his antibody levels checked as well.

“I rated more than 700 on the test for antibodies whereas my wife rated lower at around 400. But we’ll both get the Pfizer boosters from Australia,” he said.

Hun Sen said he had ordered the purchase of an additional five million Covid-19 vaccine doses even though Cambodia currently has more than 10 million doses in its stockpile.

“If we were to calculate the amount of vaccines we’d need for the next round of booster shots, we’d still be short by eight million. [On January 9] I ordered another five million doses to add to the stockpile.

“Once those five million doses arrive, we need to buy another five million jabs because we do not know when this pandemic will end and we need to ensure that the Cambodian people have enough vaccines to get as many booster shots as necessary to keep everyone safe,” he said.

Or Vandine, spokeswoman for the health ministry and head of the national Covid-19 vaccination committee, explained that adjustments to the vaccines may eventually be required due to the continuously mutating nature of viruses like the coronavirus.

“The research shows that the third dose or booster shot of any of the vaccines strengthens the body’s defences. But based on experience and research studies, it has been observed that the use of different vaccines for booster shots promotes a more robust immune response and provides better protection than just using the same make consistently,” she said.

“All of the vaccines on the World Health Organisation list are effective and of good quality that are safe for use in the human body. So there is no discrimination intended regarding whether each of the vaccines is good or bad, but it does mean that mixing and matching different makes of vaccines at different stages is a very effective approach,” she said.

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