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Cambodia Aiming for 100% Covid-19 Vaccination Rate

A woman receives China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on June 1.
A woman receives China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination site in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on June 1.

Cambodia is among the few counties pushing for a 100 percent vaccination rate against the Covid-19 pandemic as Prime Minister Hun Sen declared his country is set to fully reopen ahead of a hectic round of diplomatic meetings.

More than 80 percent of Cambodia’s 16.5 million people have received one jab while 75.5 percent are full vaccinated, with herd immunity reached among the adult population and inoculations now being rolled out among children. Another 1.4 million people have received a booster shot.

Daily cases are comfortably below 200 and surviving businesses are limping back to life in an economy that has been crushed by the pandemic, with an estimated 6 million people in the formal and informal economies losing their jobs.

Hun Sen said coronavirus patients who had recently died had existing severe medical conditions or were unvaccinated, noting that of the 12 people who died from the disease on Oct. 18 eight had not been inoculated.

“In light of all these, we can conclude that vaccines are the solid fortress for protecting our people, reducing transmission and preventing fatal conditions,” he said.

Officials said the government would build on herd immunity by fully vaccinating up to 91 percent of the population and analysts said a target of 100 percent is now in sight.

Herd immunity is a myth when it comes to the coronavirus, an increasing number of health experts have declared. And every society on earth has some built in vaccine hesitancy, so a 100 percent vaccination rate, while a worthy goal, is impossible. Even Thailand, with large numbers vaccinated, cannot achieve 90 percent, let alone 100.

“It’s probably impossible to inoculate every single person in this country but it’s a target the government is now in a position to at least strive for,” said one observer who declined to be named.

Importantly, Cambodia is about to assume the role as chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and play host to a hectic year of meetings and summits involving leaders from across the region and further afield, including the United States and China.

A formal reopening date has not yet been set but quarantine restrictions and health measures designed to curb the disease have steadily been relaxed over the past two weeks.

Sources said the government was hoping a resumption of international travel will result in physical meetings in Phnom Penh as opposed to the webinars and Zoom conferences which have become the mainstay of ASEAN summits and dialogues during the pandemic.

The original version of this story appears in UCA News, a Bangkok Herald partner.