PHNOM PENH, Feb. 17 (Xinhua) -- Cambodia will begin inoculating children from three to five years old amid a rise in daily cases of the Omicron variant of COVID-19, Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen said on Thursday.
In an audio message released publicly, Hun Sen said since the Omicron hit the kingdom in mid-December last year, over 20 percent of the infected have been children aged five or younger.
He said even his 21st grandchild, aged less than two years old, had also been infected with the Omicron variant.
"So, it's necessary to vaccinate children aged from three to under five years old in order to protect them against the Omicron variant," he said.
Approximately 700,000 kids are in this age group across the country, he said, adding that vaccines not only reduce the chance of infection, but also help mitigate disease severity in case a person becomes infected.
Hun Sen advised health authorities nationwide to provide vaccines to the children as soon as possible, and urged parents and legal guardians to bring their kids for the vaccines at their nearest vaccination sites.
The kingdom registered 444 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday, 14 of which were imported and all were confirmed to be the Omicron variant.
No new fatalities have been reported for 44 days straight, the health ministry said, adding that since the pandemic started in January 2020, Cambodia has logged 124,787 COVID-19 cases with 119,633 recoveries and 3,015 deaths.
To date, the kingdom has administered at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccines to 14.38 million people aged five and older, or 89.9 percent of its 16 million population, the ministry said, adding that of them, 13.8 million, or 86.3 percent of the whole population, have been fully vaccinated with two required shots.
Most of the vaccines used in the kingdom's vaccination campaign are China's Sinovac and Sinopharm. ■