PHNOM PENH - Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen received on Thursday a shot of the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine supplied by India, about three weeks into the launch of his country's inoculation program, which initially relied only on Chinese vaccines.
Hun Sen, 68, had vowed to be the first to receive the Sinopharm vaccine donated by China, but later said he was too old. His sons and the justice and environment ministers were among the first to get it instead.
China is one of Cambodia's closest allies, and Hun Sen dismissed public hesitance about the safety of the Sinopharm vaccine.
"The Chinese vaccine has gone to more countries than the AstraZeneca vaccine, even countries that are allies of the West also use the Chinese vaccines," Hun Sen told a news conference after getting his shot.
He urged people below 60 to get the Sinopharm vaccine and those older than 60 to receive the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The Southeast Asian nation of about 16 million has reported among the lowest number of coronavirus cases and no deaths, though last month saw a rise in cases that took the cumulative total detected to 909.
Cambodia received its first batch of 324,000 doses of the India-made AstraZeneca vaccine and supplied through the World Health Organization-backed COVAX vaccine-sharing program on Tuesday.
India and China have been engaged in vaccine diplomacy to bolster their standing in the region, with both donating shipments to smaller and poor countries.
China's first consignment of 600,000 doses of the Sinopharm vaccine had arrived in Phnom Penh on Feb. 7 and an additional 400,000 doses are set to arrive in April. (Reporting by Prak Chan Thul Editing by Ed Davies and Gerry Doyle)