Exiled opposition politician Sam Rainsy urged Cambodians to receive the currently available Chinese vaccines to protect themselves from Covid-19, though Prime Minister Hun Sen doubted Rainsy’s sincerity amid a global vaccine shortage.
Rainsy made the call in a video on his Facebook page on Sunday, saying Sinovac and Sinopharm were the only vaccines currently readily available for Cambodia, and there were no concrete reports that they could be dangerous, despite some rumors.
Though the vaccines have yet to be approved by the World Health Organization, Cambodia has purchased or received nearly 3 million doses, and is being rolled out in a targeted vaccination campaign. The country has also received 324,000 doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been reserved for people 60 and older.
In the nearly three-minute video clip, Rainsy said Cambodians should take the vaccines to bring the country closer to an end to Covid-19.
“If the Chinese vaccine is 70 to 80 percent effective, we can accept it because if we do not accept it, it is very dangerous and does not protect us at all. Zero protection. If [we have] zero protection, when the disease comes and we will be infected,” Rainsy said.
Hun Sen, however, questioned Rainsy’s intentions in an audio message posted to his Facebook page on Monday.
Rainsy was only trying to create a rush for the vaccines while the government did not have enough for every citizen, Hun Sen said.
“Before, he himself and his people considered the Chinese vaccine would kill people. Today, [he] praises the Chinese vaccine. It is not from good intentions. The goal is to [create competition] for the vaccine when we do not have enough,” the prime minister said.
Hun Sen asked people to stay calm and not rush to vaccination sites without receiving a notice from relevant authorities and institutions first. The government would give priority vaccinations according to the availability and number of vaccines that have arrived, he said.
Rainsy, Hun Sen’s long-time political competitor, lives in exile in France amid a slew of legal convictions against him.