Cambodian Journalists Alliance Association

Three provinces miss vaccination targets due to late vaccine supplies

A woman receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Phnom Penh. Picture taken on April 1, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang
A woman receives a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in Phnom Penh. Picture taken on April 1, 2021. CamboJA/ Pring Samrang

Kampong Chhnang, Tbong Khmum and Pursat provinces are the only provinces not to have reached their vaccination targets due to late supplies, according to a voice message from Prime Minister Hun Sen on Wednesday night. By contrast, the remote northeastern province of Ratanakiri has reportedly vaccinated 130,000 people — 10,000 more than their target population.

“I found the reason in some places was because of late vaccine supplies,” the prime minister said.

Hun Sen warned against keeping vaccines lying in their warehouses, saying that now that Cambodia had enough doses to inoculate its target population against COVID-19, those doses should be sent to people in need.

“Just in Kampong Chhnang and Tbong Khmum provinces there are nearly 500,000 people who have not received the vaccine,” he said. “If we add 80,000 populations in Pursat province who have not been vaccinated, the total is about 500,000 people,” said Hun Sen.

The prime minister announced that he had ordered the Ministry of Defense, the commander-in-chief of the armed forces and the commander of the nation’s air force to arrange helicopters to transport the vaccine to remote areas.

A Ministry of Health report on August 26 showed that 10,176,498 people had already been vaccinated with the first dose and 8,204, 217 people had received both doses of the vaccine. In addition, 565,318 people who had received a third dose as a booster against the virus. Cambodia’s total vaccination rate as of August 26 was 88.74% compared to the target population of 10 million, and 66.21% of children aged between 12 and 18 out of a target population of 1,966,931.

Sron Samrithy, deputy governor and spokesman of Kampong Chhnang province, admitted that the number of people vaccinated was still lower than the target population, but said that the provincial authorities had been working hard to vaccinate people. He confirmed that more vaccines had arrived in Kampong Chhnang province on August 26, and pledged that authorities would finish vaccinating the target population within two weeks.

Prak Von, Kampong Chhnang provincial health department director told CamboJA that 220,000 people out of a target population of 420,000 had been vaccinated.

“There are a few reasons for the lack in relation to the vaccine,” he said. “Our providing [vaccination] service is still limited.”

He said that now, Kampong Chhnang province had received more than 490,000 doses of the vaccine.

“We will finish the first doses over the next ten days, and the second dose will be finished within the next 20 days ,” Von said. But he stressed that vaccination rates also depended heavily on people’s willingness to be vaccinated.

“I appeal to all people who have not been vaccinated yet, please go get vaccinated because we have 44 places for vaccination,” he said. He told CamboJA that the province had had more than 2,700 cases of COVID-19, more than 2,600 recoveries and 75 deaths.

Keo Vannak, the director of the Tbong Khmum provincial health department, said the province’s vaccination campaign had started with civil servants including health officials, police and military police before authorities received more vaccines on August 2.

“We have vaccinated 348,887 people out of 619,880 target people, which is equal to 56.16 percent,” he said. He explained that more than 270,000 people had not received the vaccine yet.

He said that Tbong Khmum province was nearly out of vaccines, having only enough to vaccinate people for a few days more. Vannak told CamboJA that they had requested 580,000 additional doses from the National COVID-19 Vaccination Committee, but they had not arrived yet.

“The reason we’re late for [our vaccination target] is because we just received the vaccines on August 2 to vaccinate people,” he said. “If we had received vaccines for a long time, we would not lose to other provinces. It’s necessary that we receive vaccines in stages.”

Vannak added that a total of 3,214 people had tested positive for COVID-19 in the province, with 2,517 recoveries and 40 deaths.

Nhem Sam Oeun, the deputy governor and spokesman of Ratanakiri province, said that health officials were continuing to vaccinate people living in remote areas despite having already reached their target.

“First, we vaccinated people at risk of COVID-19 in the town and then we went to vaccinate the people who are in remote areas,” he said. Sam Oeun said that provincial health officials had also vaccinated the staff and workers of several companies operating in the province.

“We used the [one-dose] Johnson&Johnson vaccine to vaccinate indigenous people and the people who live in remote areas in the province, because it is a place that is difficult to travel to, so we just vaccinate them with one dose and then it’s complete, and we do not need to go to vaccinate them again,” he said. More than 60 percent of the province’s 210,000 people were indigenous, Sam Oeun said. Nearly 1,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in Ratanakiri, with more than 500 recoveries and 18 deaths.

Yong Kim Eng, executive director of the People Center for Development and Peace, said that failing to hit vaccination targets left provinces vulnerable to COVID-19 infections, especially following the spread of the more contagious Delta variant into Cambodia.

“If it does not reach the target, it also affects the development plan of the nation and other investment in the country,” he said.

Kim Eng added that if a lack of supply was responsible for the delay, the government must push the relevant institutes to speed up sending vaccines to target places.

A report released by the Ministry of Health shows that as of August 26, Cambodia has detected a total of 1,534 new cases of the Delta variant, including 764 women, since March 31. Every province except Kep and Kratie have recorded cases of the new variant.

On Friday, the Ministry of Health reported 411 new cases of COVID-19 including 85 imported cases, bringing the total count to 91,369 including 14,708 imported cases since the pandemic began in early 2020. The large majority of these cases have been recorded since February 20, when the ongoing community outbreak began in Cambodia. The ministry has also recorded 87,299 recovered cases and 1,858 deaths from the virus.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Or Vandine could not be reached for comment on Friday.