Cambodia starts coronavirus vaccinations for young children

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A nurse prepares a dose of China's Sinovac coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine at an industrial park in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, April 7, 2021. REUTERS/Cindy Liu

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PHNOM PENH, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Cambodia started vaccinating children aged 6 to 12 against COVID-19 on Friday, joining a small number of countries to inoculate minors of elementary school age, as it seeks to expand its immunisation programme and revive its economy.

Of Cambodia's more than 16 million people, 10 million have been vaccinated against COVID-19 so far, one of the highest rates in Southeast Asia.

"We vaccinate people not only to save lives but to save the economy and society. Reopening of the economy and society is necessary," Prime Minister Hun Sen said at the launch of the programme.

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"We are willing to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on vaccines to vaccinate people in order to attract billions of dollars for the economy in return."

Cambodia has been using vaccines made by China's Sinovac (SVA.O) and Sinopharm and the British-developed AstraZeneca vaccine (AZN.L) on adults and has also been vaccinated children over 12. The health ministry said the Sinovac vaccine would be given to children aged 6 to 12.

Chile and the United Arab Emirates have also approved vaccinating younger children, while Cuba is administering shots en masse to toddlers. In China, a government disease control expert on Thursday said the country should consider vaccinating children under 12.

In the United States, top health officials believe the vaccine developed by Pfizer (PFE.N) and BioNTech (22UAy.DE)could be authorized for children aged 5 to 11 next month.

Cambodia's tourism- and manufacturing-led economy contracted 3.1% last year and is forecast to grow 4% this year, the World Bank says.

The country has recorded more than 102,000 coronavirus cases and more than 2,000 deaths since the pandemic began, the vast majority this year.

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Reporting by Prak Chan Thul; Editing by Martin Petty and Jonathan Oatis

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