Migrants in Cambodia are being vaccinated against COVID-19 for the first time, as the International Organization for Migration (IOM), World Health Organization (WHO), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) work under the leadership of the Royal Government of Cambodia to support the national immunization effort to vaccinate all eligible people in Cambodia including the vulnerable groups such as migrants and those living in the border areas.
The country has had an impressive record of COVID-19 vaccination coverage, with over 96% of the adult population aged 18 years old and over having received a second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Since the start of the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out globally, IOM has been advocating for the inclusion of migrants in vaccination efforts. Around 3,900 migrants in Banteay Meanchey, Oddor Meanchey, and Battambang provinces have received jabs since the vaccination drive began in September 2021 and it will continue till at least the end of the year.
The move is a crucial step towards protecting and safeguarding migrants and communities in the key provinces migrant workers return to from Thailand or use for transiting to their home communities. More than 260,000 migrant workers have returned to Cambodia from Thailand since the beginning of the pandemic crisis in March 2020. Cambodian migrant workers in Thailand are often engaged in irregular informal employment with no official documentation and limited access to health care facilities. Back home in Cambodia, migrants are considered one the most vulnerable populations impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with economic hardships and limited access to information constituting the main barriers to their access to essential health services.
‘We’ve called on the local population, including migrants, to actively participate in the vaccination drive and reminded them that the vaccine is still the most effective way to protect yourself and those around you, especially when they want to return to work legally’ said His Excellency Dr. Le Chansanvanth, from the Banteay Meanchey Provincial Health Department.
Migrants tested negative for COVID-19 infection receive their vaccines in provincial quarantine centers, where they are required to complete a mandatory quarantine after crossing the border. IOM, with the support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), has assisted Banteay Meanchey and Battambang Provincial Health Departments in accelerating the COVID-19 vaccination efforts for returning migrants from Thailand.
The overall objective is to ensure that returning migrant workers can access the COVID-19 vaccine and receive at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before returning to their home communities. Migrants are also provided with COVID-19 information to minimize vaccine hesitancy through communication campaigns run by Village Health Support Groups and local health centers. During the events, local village or commune chiefs promote COVID-19 prevention information and answer any questions community members may have about COVID-19 vaccines.
“We are grateful to the Royal Government of Cambodia on the rapid, fair, and equitable access to vaccines for all and the inclusion of migrants, regardless of their status, in their national COVID-19 vaccination programs and other public health interventions,” said Ms. Kristin Parco, IOM’s Chief of Mission in Cambodia.
Cambodia has had more than 119,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 2,800 people have died since the start of the pandemic. The hope is that with the inclusion of migrants in the vaccine roll-out, the number of cases and negative impact of COVID-19 will be reduced.