Cambodia at risk of being last in line for vaccines - Asia Times
With an exceptionally weak healthcare system, feeble bureaucracy and faltering finances, Cambodian hopes for entering a post-pandemic era in 2021 are fast diminishing as richer states buy up limited vaccines for their own citizens.“No one knows anything at all” about when the vaccine rollout will begin, a source with knowledge of the Cambodian government’s planning who spoke to Asia Times on condition of anonymity said.
“Cambodia is really still in ‘will we get it’ mode rather than ‘vaccine preparation’ mode,” the source said, adding that sentiment in Phnom Penh is that it’s a “long way off” before vaccines start to arrive in the country.
The government has been mainly mum on the matter since stating in December that it would only accept vaccines approved by the World Health Organization (WHO), which currently includes only those produced by Pfizer-BioNTech, a German-US partnership.
The most pessimistic of projections among sources tracking the government’s response is that inoculation of the majority of Cambodia’s 16.7 million population won’t take place until late 2022, if not mid-2023.
The Economist Intelligence Unit recently forecast that vaccines won’t be widely available in Cambodia until at least April 2022, a prediction that noted the emerging stark contrast in vaccine access between rich and poor nations. Because Cambodia is “largely dependent” on the WHO-backed global health initiative COVAX to access vaccines, which currently only guarantees inoculations for a fifth of a country’s population, “it may take time for COVAX to increase this, and Cambodia only has limited fiscal resources to purchase vaccines independently,” Imogen Page-Jarrett, an EIU research analyst, said.
“We therefore do not expect Cambodia to immunize 60% of its population until sometime between June 2022 and June 2023,” she added.Phnom Penh’s attention is for now diverted by the more pressing issue of preventing further viral outbreaks, a major concern since the more-virulent variant of Covid-19, first detected in the UK, was found last week in neighboring Vietnam and Thailand.
New restrictions on border crossings have been imposed by Cambodia on both countries.Cambodia has officially not recorded any Covid-19 fatalities, although fears were raised after community outbreaks emerged in November. At the time of writing, credibly or not, there have only been 383 documented coronavirus cases nationwide. There are now also concerns about whether returning migrant workers from Thailand, several of whom have tested positive for Covid-19 in recent days, will spark another viral wave and community spread when they return to their home villages, sources say. Earlier images of mass vaccinations in Europe in December appeared to signal the beginning of the pandemic’s end, with many Cambodians sensing that it might be over within a matter of months. Although there have been few social distancing restrictions imposed in Cambodia, its economy is reeling from the pandemic. Unemployment rates reached near record-highs in 2020 whilst the true number of Cambodians pushed back into poverty will only be clear in the coming months. The Asian Development Bank in August reported that 8% of the population could be thrust back into poverty because of the pandemic