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Coronavirus

Cambodia COVID vaccinations begin with Hun Sen's sons, ministers

Most of first 600,000 Sinopharm doses earmarked for health workers and military

Hun Manet, the son of Cambodian Prime Minster Hun Sen, receives a dose of Sinopharm's coronavirus vaccine on Feb. 10.   © Reuters

PHNOM PENH (Reuters) -- Cambodia launched its coronavirus inoculation drive on Wednesday, using 600,000 vaccine doses donated by China, with the sons of long-serving Prime Minister Hun Sen and government ministers among the first recipients.

The Southeast Asian nation of about 16 million has managed to limit the spread of the disease, reporting just 478 infections and no deaths, although a rare cluster of cases emerged in November.

Hun Sen had vowed to take the first dose, but later said that at 68 he was above the age to get the vaccine, made by Sinopharm. His sons and the justice and environment ministers were among the first to get it instead.

"I feel even more confident that I have a defense system in my body against COVID," said Hun Manet, the prime minister's eldest son, flashing a thumbs-up sign at the Calmette Hospital in the capital Phnom Penh.

Doctors had advised Hun Manet, a deputy commander of the Royal Cambodian Armed Forces, not to eat seafood or drink alcohol after taking the vaccine, he told reporters, urging them to also get shots.

China's first consignment of 600,000 doses had arrived in Phnom Penh on Sunday by special airplane, most of them earmarked for health workers and the military.

One of Asia's poorest countries, Cambodia has been an important ally of China in recent years.

Beijing has said it will send 1 million doses of the Sinopharm vaccine to Cambodia, sufficient for 500,000 people.

"We were worried that we might infect family members with the virus, now there is the vaccine as the defence wall," Justice Minister Keut Rith said after his injection.

"A vaccine is the best defense solution for us, for family and the community."

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