Officials in Cambodia are backing a directive asking them to get China’s home-grown coronavirus vaccine to help fight a deadly outbreak in the country or be issued a rose vote, saying they do not trust the quality of the injection and call for a review of its effectiveness.
On April 6, Prime Minister Hun Sen warned that any civil servant who refused the Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines would be fired and asked authorities to write down their names, citing they were at risk of infection. others. He also said that people who choose not to be vaccinated will be “prevented from working.”
“Local governments – especially governors and districts – have to monitor their staff in all provinces to determine who hasn’t been immunized, making sure they don’t try to avoid it,” he said. vaccinations.
“If people avoid being vaccinated, we should not invite them to work. We want them at home. We want them to quit their jobs and we will hire people to replace them.
Hun Sen also said that anyone looking for a job as a civil servant or being trained for one must first be vaccinated before they can take the exam.
China donated a second batch of Sinopharm vaccine to Cambodia on April 1, after the original batch arrived on February 7. On March 26, a batch of Sinovac vaccine that Cambodia bought from a Chinese pharmaceutical company. Sinovac Biotech also arrived in this country.
Cambodia launched its vaccination campaign for at least 10 million of its 16 million people in February and as of April 1, more than 407,000 people in priority groups have been vaccinated, according to a report. covered. Cambodian Health Minister Or Vandine has called the Chinese vaccine safe and effective, and said there have been no reports of serious side effects following vaccination.
Despite the government’s statements, officials said Friday that Hun Sen’s order violated their right to decide how they want to be vaccinated.
Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, a teacher told RFA’s Khmer Language Agency that some civil servants do not want to get Sinopharm or Sinovac vaccines because they have not been publicized by World Health Organization (WHO) take.
“We have to follow [Hun Sen’s] ordered, otherwise we will be punished, ”he said.
“But I don’t agree with this approach. I cannot accept it. We live in a democratic country and people have the right to express their opinion on whether or not they want to be vaccinated ”.
Another official, unnamed, said the government should conduct more research on the effectiveness of the vaccine and make the results public to reduce suspicions.
He noted that government offices would register the names of people who refused to be vaccinated and could be discriminated against because of their decision.
“We do not discriminate against any vaccine, but we want it to be recognized by WHO,” he said.
Outbreaks are increasing
Government spokesman Phay Siphan told RFA on Friday that under Cambodia’s civil servant statute, the state has the right to terminate contracts with anyone who disobeys instructions. He asserted that, for now, vaccination is no longer done on a volunteer basis – it is imperative, and that governments must protect the lives of others.
“Many countries have governed [Sinopharm and Sinovac], “I said. “[Civil servants] cannot claim that their human rights are more important than they are today [outbreak] situation.”
Cambodia on Friday broke a record for the number of daily COVID-19 infections, the disease caused by coronavirus, with 576 cases – most of which were found in the capital, Phnom Penh.
The country, which is virtually unaffected by coronavirus in 2020, recorded its first death from COVID-19 last month, a year until the day WHO considered it a pandemic. Since then, 25 people have died, and the number of deaths in Cambodia has reached nearly 4,000.
But despite the growing risk of an outbreak, Cambodia’s Independent Teachers Association president Ouk Chhayavy told RFA that the government cannot just fire the country’s officials because they prefer how to deal with the coronavirus and rejected Hun Sen’s orders as a “threat”.
“It is the people’s right to decide if they want to be vaccinated,” she said. “If parents repeatedly threaten their children, will the children respect them?”
Political analyst Kim Sok called Hun Sen’s statement “inhumane”.
“The government’s coercion on the policy is inhumane and immoral, noting that Hun Sen himself chose the British AstraZeneca vaccine instead of the one from China,” he said.
“It is unethical to force people to do what you are afraid to do yourself,” he said, “as a poor leader and role model,” he called Hun Sen.
“Hun Sen is implementing China’s experimental policy. If he doesn’t force people [to take their vaccine], he will not be able to play against China ”.
Kim Sok urged Cambodians to stand up and oppose China’s vaccine distribution, or risk their health.
The effectiveness of the vaccine
According to Reuters, in late March, Sinopharm and Sinovac presented data on their vaccines showing the effectiveness level compatible with the efficacy levels required by WHO, according to Reuters news agency. vaccine recommendations are made in late April.
The WHO requires about 50% of efficacy and safety data to show that the vaccine will not harm people when used. Sinopharm’s vaccine developer said it was 79% more effective at preventing people from developing COVID-19 based on temporary data, while Sinovac’s vaccine showed mixed results from 50% to 83% based on trials in Brazil, Turkey and Indonesia.
A WHO spokeswoman said in early March that the two Chinese vaccines could receive the emergency list “pretty soon”.
Reported by RFA’s Khmer Language Service. Translated by Samean Yun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.