WHO Cambodia: COVID-19 Vaccines, a Very Powerful Tool, but Not a Silver Bullet to End the Pandemic

“COVID-19 vaccines are a very powerful tool, but not a silver bullet to end the pandemic,” reiterated the World Health Organisation (WHO) Representative Office for Cambodia in a statement on Aug. 12, warning people of vaccine optimism.

The full statement reads as follows:

"‘Vaccine optimism’ can be dangerous. If you are vaccinated, it doesn't mean you should stop practicing other preventative measures such as wearing a mask in public places or physical distancing and avoiding gatherings. Vaccinations alone are not a ‘silver bullet’, they are just one of the critical tools in fighting COVID-19 and in reducing severe disease, hospitalisations and deaths.

COVID-19 transmission can only be suppressed, if we continue to strictly and effectively implement targeted non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) in combination with vaccination. Importantly, adoption of these measures will allow businesses and other sectors to reopen and people to safely maintain their livelihoods and restart their lives.

The proactive efforts of the Royal Government of Cambodia, including the Ministry of Health, have ensured consistently increasing vaccine availability, uptake and coverage in Cambodia, especially among vulnerable, high-risk groups and remote populations.

WHO highly commends the Royal Government of Cambodia for achieving the remarkable milestone of vaccinating 8 million people, which is 80% of the target population. As of 10 August 2021, a total of 8,037,519 and 6,438,770 people aged 18 years old and above were vaccinated with first and second dose, respectively.

It is important to note that about 97% of health care workers have already been vaccinated and more elderly populations including those living in the remote villages are being covered under vaccination campaign. The Royal Government has also initiated vaccination of children aged 12 to 17 years old from 1 August 2021 in Phnom Penh, Preah Sihanouk, Koh Kong and Kandal provinces.

The delivery of a vaccination programme for adults, especially the vulnerable population, of this magnitude requires significant collective efforts especially strong government leadership, active public participation and good partnerships. WHO is pleased to have strategically and technically supported Cambodia's vaccines rollout including situation analysis, policy advice on prioritisation, vaccination planning, implementation and monitoring including staff training and managing adverse events following immunisation (AEFI).

WHO continues to advise the prioritisation of health care workers, elderly groups, those with chronic conditions and other high risk groups such as pregnant and lactating women, children and adolescents with underlying health conditions for vaccination. Further research is ongoing to better understand the short and long-term effects of COVID-19 infection among children as well as the profile of vaccines for this population.

Together we have come far, and we must continue to stand together; otherwise the hard-fought gains that have been made will be lost. WHO encourages everyone to continue to practice preventive behaviors and follow the advice of the Ministry of Health and local authorities such as applying the 3Dos and 3Don'ts correctly and responsibly, avoiding high risk settings, limiting unnecessary travel and gatherings even if you are fully vaccinated.

‘Cambodia and Cambodians have always inspired me for their courage, empathy and love for their country and their loved ones. With individual and collective actions, we will win this fight against COVID-19,’ Dr. Li Ailan said.

The pandemic is far from over. While there are signals of reduced transmission and death in some provinces, the risk of a surge in COVID-19 due to the Delta variant is very high, especially if we relax the NPIs too soon and too quick.

We continue to race against the new variants especially the delta variant. The delta variant spreads faster than other known variants; it is the most transmissible variant known to date. No single measure can suppress transmission, it will be an effective combination of risk-based public health and social measures and accelerated vaccinations that will be required.

We are all in this together - we will overcome COVID-19 together.”

Source: Agency Kampuchea Press