First Doses Hit 3M as Provinces Next in Line Gear Up for Vaccinations

4 min read
Two women fill out Covid-19 vaccine forms at the entrance to the vaccine station at Phnom Penh’s Stung Meanchey primary school on May 11, 2021. (Danielle Keeton-Olsen/VOD)

Phnom Penh’s vaccination campaign has reached the city’s last three districts, while provinces are gearing up to be next in line for jabs as the Health Ministry announced it had hit the 3 million mark for first doses out of a target of 10 million people vaccinated nationwide.

The Health Ministry reported that 3,000,264 people had been vaccinated as of Monday since launching its public vaccination drive on February 10.

According to the ministry, Phnom Penh districts Daun Penh, Chroy Changva and Prek Pnov were the final three districts to be vaccinated, with first doses scheduled to be completed by June 23 and second doses by July 8.

Health Ministry spokesperson Or Vandine said the vaccination campaign had already been extended to Kandal province, and would start in Preah Sihanouk by Wednesday or Thursday this week. Those were currently the priority provinces, she said.

However, Or Vandine said she was not sure when Cambodia would be able to reach its target of 10 million people vaccinated.

“It depends on the number of vaccines arriving. If they arrive fast, we will vaccinate fast,” she said.

“If we have enough vaccines in hand, we will be able to vaccinate at the latest by the end of this year … [or] the first quarter of 2022,” Vandine said.

Daily vaccination rates have been as high as 60,000 per day for first doses in the latest announcement.

In Prek Pnov, one of Phnom Penh’s last districts to be vaccinated, deputy district governor Sak Sitha said about 50 percent of a population of 37,700 had received their first doses.

The first few days were a little difficult to control as people flooded in for vaccinations. She initially planned to have 400 to 600 people per day at each center, but it was too crowded, and afternoons were restricted to 150 a day to reduce crowding, she said.

Residents may have been in a hurry after hearing that Prek Pnov was Phnom Penh’s last district, she said.

“They publicly got information that Prek Pnov district is the last vaccination campaign for Phnom Penh. So they worried that we [might] finish [our stock of] vaccines or they might miss the vaccination,” Sitha said, adding that temporary residents and workers were also eligible for shots.

Her district had seen few new Covid-19 cases recently, but a successful vaccination campaign was vital, she said.

“If we can do it, the risk of an outbreak will be reduced and our authorities will also reduce their hardship,” she said.

Ith Sarath, deputy commander-in-chief of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, who has been in charge of red-zone vaccinations, said that after vaccinating six priority districts in Phnom Penh, the military team would move on to assist vaccinations in the provinces of Preah Sihanouk, Kampong Speu, Takeo, Kampong Cham and Svay Rieng starting June 21.

Regarding Preah Sihanouk, he said, “Currently, new infections are not much, but the special point is that it is a tourism area … investment area and so on.”

So far the military medical teams had given out 1 million first doses and nearly 900,000 second doses, he said.

Beyond Phnom Penh

Kandal deputy governor Nov Peng Chandara said his province began its vaccination campaign for the general public on June 10, and so far nearly 150,000 people had been vaccinated over four days.

He said between 30,000 to 50,000 people had been vaccinated per day, with the number depending on the turnout at different centers.

“It has gone smoothly and there is no problem,” Peng Chandara said. “We have prepared at the district [level] and districts have prepared their plans well, meaning that we visit the villages and invite them. Frankly, we have prepared the plans well.”

He said the hope was that a swift vaccination campaign would help with the economic recovery.

“It will move back to the normal situation quickly and when it returns back to normal, it will make people’s livelihoods easier, meaning they can make businesses so it makes our economy stable.”

Kuoy Bunthoeun, director of Kandal provincial health department, added that the province had more than 40 vaccination sites staffed by 76 medical teams of 10 staff members each.

“Some groups have vaccinated faster than the plan. We assigned them to vaccinate between 400 to 600 people [per day]. They can vaccinate up to 1,000 people,” Bunthoeun said.

In Kampong Speu, provincial health department director Or Vanthen said public vaccinations would start within the month, though he could not give an exact date.

The province had 10 medical teams prepared so far as well as vaccination sites and equipment, he said.

“We are already ready because we have our plan,” Vanthen said, anticipating that rural vaccinations would be easier than in Phnom Penh.

“In the capital, there are larger gatherings so it might be more difficult than in the province,” he said.

Vanthen added that new Covid-19 cases in the province had eased in recent days, from about 70 to 80 cases a day down to 30.

As of Monday, the province had more than 800 active cases, and 22 deaths, he said.

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