09/17/2021, 13.18
ASIA
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From Phnom Penh to Abu Dhabi, race to vaccinate children against COVID-19 starts

Cambodia extends vaccination campaign to children under six. The aim is to immunize 91 per cent of the population and reopen the tourism sector. China and the UAE plan to vaccinate three-year-old. Hong Kong lawmakers turn to Pfizer for a third jab after no antibodies detected from Chinese vaccine.

Phnom Penh (AsiaNews) – The Cambodian government plans to extend its vaccination campaign to children aged six to 11 in order to stop the coronavirus from spreading.

The Southeast Asian country reported 698 new coronavirus cases today for a total of 102,834 since the pandemic started.

By the end of the month, another nine million doses of the Chinese Sinovac vaccine are expected to arrive in the country, despite the fact that it has not been very effective in containing the virus, as Chinese scientists have admitted.

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that three million doses would be delivered on 24 September, while another three million would arrive between 26 and 27 September. The rest are expected at a later date. 

According to government estimates, at least four million doses are currently in store, 773,437 meant for 386,719 children in Phnom Penh and the provinces of Kandal, Preah Sihanouk and Koh Kong where the rate of infection is higher.

The rest will be used to vaccinate children in other parts of the country, according to the order of priority.

As of yesterday, Cambodia has vaccinated 98 per cent of its adult population of 10 million people and 87.54 per cent or two million of young people aged 12 to 17.

Overall, 72 per cent of the country’s population of 16 million has been vaccinated, one of the highest percentages in the world.

However, the almost exclusive use of Chinese vaccines has limited the actual protection against the virus compared to mRNA vaccines like AstraZeneca or Russia's Sputnik.

For Cambodian authorities, as the prime minister himself has indicated, the goal is to vaccinate 91 per cent of the population in order to avoid another round of closures and lockdowns that risk further harming the economy.

Ministry of Tourism spokesperson Top Sopheak told the Khmer Times that thousands of tourism-based businesses are shuttered and in need of immediate help until they can get back to some form of “normalcy”.

Cambodia is among the leading nations in the world for the vaccination of children. So far only Cuba has decided to vaccinate two-year-old children, while China and the United Arab Emirates have started with those aged three and up. Chile plan to follow Cambodia and vaccinate primary school children

The goal is to immunise the greatest number of students to ensure in-person schooling, especially in countries and regions where remote learning is not possible or to hard to implement.

At present, some of the world's leading health agencies, including the World Health Organisation and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, recommend the use of the Pfizer vaccine (the most effective along with Moderna) for children over 12.

In schools, the rules remain the same: social distancing, wearing masks and personal hygiene.

In addition to vaccines for children, the other big question concerns the need (still not confirmed by major institutions) for a third jab for all age groups, regardless of health status, six months after the second.

Israel, a vaccination trailblazer thanks to an agreement with the manufacturer during the first phase of the pandemic back in December-January, has started to inform its population about it.

Regina Ip, a pro-Beijing member of Hong Kong’s Legislative Council, today received a dose of the BioNTech vaccine, her third jab, after no antibodies were detected from the first two doses of the Chinese-made Sinovac vaccine.

In Hong Kong, six other lawmakers in the former British colony are expected to follow her example amid growing mistrust about the effectiveness of the Chinese vaccine.

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