A girl receives a dose of COVID-19 vaccine at an inoculation site in Phnom Penh, Cambodia on Sept. 17, 2021. A COVID-19 vaccination drive for children from 6 to 12 years old began nationwide on Friday. (Photo by Sovannara/Xinhua)
PHNOM PENH, Sept. 17 (Xinhua) -- Emotions run high for parents in Cambodia on Friday as the Southeast Asian nation began a COVID-19 vaccination drive for children aged from six to 12 years, with China's Sinovac COVID-19 vaccines.
Children, assisted by their parents or legal guardians, were seen queuing outside vaccination centers in the capital city Phnom Penh as they waited to receive the first shot of the jab.
You Sokhuon, the 40-year-old mother of two, said she felt a sense of relief after having her 10-year-old boy and six-year-old girl vaccinated against the disease.
"I'm delighted that they've received their first dose of Sinovac vaccine," she told Xinhua. "With the jab, I'm confident that they will be safe facing the COVID-19."
You Y, 47, a mother of a seven-year-old and an 11-year-old son, said since the COVID-19 outbreak, she has always worried about her children's safety because the disease was highly contagious.
"Now, I feel relieved after having them vaccinated. As a mother, protecting their health is the most important thing," she told Xinhua. "Thanks to China for supplying the vaccine and the Cambodian government for giving all of us free vaccines."
In Borey Vathanak, a fourth-grade student at the Sothearos Primary School, said that he hoped the primary schools, which have been shut down since late February, will reopen soon after the 6-12 years age group have been fully vaccinated with two vaccine doses.
"I had longed for the vaccine. Now, I got it, I'm very happy," the 10-year-old boy told Xinhua. "I hope the schools will reopen soon because it's boring to learn online and to stay at home all the time."
Speaking at the launching event of the vaccination campaign for children, Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen said the vaccine is free of charge and made on a voluntary basis, saying that the country has almost 1.9 million children in this age group.
"We have to take a step forward to protect our children's lives and to enable them to return to schools safely," Hun Sen said. "If we can not reopen primary schools for our children, it is like losing the foundations of our education system."
He said that vaccines are very effective to reduce infections, hospitalizations and fatalities.
With its total population of 16 million, Cambodia first launched a vaccination campaign for 10 million adults in February and then for nearly 2 million adolescents aged from 12 to 18 in August.
To date, 98 percent of the adults have obtained at least one vaccine dose, and 54.8 percent of them have been fully inoculated with two doses, the Ministry of Health (MoH) said, adding that some 87.5 percent of the adolescents have received their first shot, and 62.8 percent of them have been fully vaccinated.
Almost all of the COVID-19 vaccines used in the country's immunization campaigns are China's Sinovac and Sinopharm.
World Health Organization (WHO) representative to Cambodia Li Ailan said Cambodia has made its really impressive progress in its vaccine rollout.
"The country is setting a very good example to put its great efforts in suppressing virus transmission, saving lives and minimizing social disruption," she told Xinhua. "Cambodia's efforts and achievements especially its vaccine rollout is highly commendable."
Li said Cambodia has been moving fast in vaccinating other age groups including children.
"WHO has advised Cambodia to use safe and effective vaccines for protecting its population including children," she said. "We are aware that China approved emergency use authorization of inactivated vaccines to children aged 3-17 years old." Enditem