Covid-19 Vaccinations for ‘Dignitaries’ to Begin at Four State Hospitals

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A health worker sprays alcohol sanitizer on a colleague at the Covid-19 testing center at Olympic Stadium in Phnom Penh on December 8, 2020. (Hy Chhay/VOD)

Senior government officials and journalists have been put at the front of the line for Covid-19 vaccinations starting Wednesday at four state hospitals, with the Health Ministry saying some with preexisting health conditions should not be vaccinated.

In an announcement on Sunday, the ministry said Sinopharm vaccinations would begin for “his and her excellencies, and ladies and gentlemen who are senior dignitaries” between 18 and 59 years old on a voluntary basis at Calmette, Ang Duong, Khmer-Soviet and National Pediatric hospitals.

Calmette will provide vaccines for ministers, secretaries of state and those of equivalent ranks, while Ang Duong hospital will vaccinate officials with ranks of under-secretary of state, the statement said.

Khmer-Soviet Hospital will be for governors and others at an equivalent rank, while journalists can get their vaccinations at the National Pediatric Hospital, it said.

On Friday, Prime Minister Hun Sen initially said he would take the first vaccine in the campaign, but later pulled out saying he was advised he was too old. Defense Minister Tea Banh, who is 75, had already received a shot.

Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine told reporters in a message on Saturday that those with allergies, respiratory problems, chronic illnesses, HIV or cancer, and women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or plan to get pregnant within three months should not be vaccinated.

Vandine could not be reached from comment on Monday.

Some 600,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines arrived in the country from China on Sunday. At a press conference, Hun Sen said Cambodia had secured 11 million total doses based on pledges from Covax, Australia and China, and would look to buy 9 million further doses from Thailand, Russia and India.

Hun Sen encouraged his sons and sons-in-law as well as the children of senior government and military officials to get vaccinated.

Nhib Angkearbos, director of the National Pediatric Hospital, said on Monday that his hospital was assigned to vaccinate journalists starting Wednesday but he did not yet know how many or from which media outlets.

The hospital will prepare a space for vaccinations on Tuesday, and the vaccines might also arrive on Tuesday, Angkearbos added.

His staff were still being trained about questions to ask and health issues to look out for to test for vaccine eligibility, he said.

“The important thing is that [patients] have to give clear information and cooperate with doctors for the benefit of their health,” he said.

He said he welcomed outlets to register to vaccinate their reporters.

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