Other nations in South-east Asia ramping up Covid-19 vaccination drives

About 12 per cent of Malaysia's 32 million population so far are fully vaccinated. PHOTO: REUTERS

SINGAPORE - Like Indonesia and Thailand, the rest of South-east Asia is also in a race against time to get as many people inoculated as possible, as a Covid-19 surge rips through the region of over 650 million people.

Malaysia is struggling with record-high cases despite a lockdown that started on June 1, and health experts have warned that cases could go up to nearly 20,000 a day in the next two weeks.

The government has ramped up moves to administer Covid-19 shots to the population by opening up mega vaccination sites and deploying vaccination trucks. About 12 per cent of the 32 million population so far are fully vaccinated while 26 per cent have had their first dose. Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin is confident the country can attain herd immunity by the year end.

In the Philippines, difficulties in making appointments, as well as vaccine hesitancy and shortage, initially hobbled its vaccination campaign, which began in March. President Rodrigo Duterte even threatened to inject those hesitant about vaccines with a drug used on pigs.

Public sentiment changed in the next few months. A survey by Pulse Asia found that the number of Filipinos willing to get inoculated rose to 43 per cent last month, from 16 per cent in February, as concerns over vaccine safety eased. At least 3.2 per cent of the 109 million population are fully vaccinated while 8.9 per cent have had their first dose.

Vietnam - once praised for its successful handling of the pandemic - has been hit by a fresh outbreak since late April, with cases repeatedly hitting new highs.

High-tech firms and export factories had to suspend operations but the government later allowed factories to set up on-site worker accommodation as a way to contain the virus while enabling production to continue. Almost 284,000 people out of the 98 million population are fully vaccinated, while 3.8 million are partially vaccinated.

Cambodia, with a population of over 15 million, has mobilised the army to inoculate its citizens. It is now vaccinating those outside the capital, after inoculating 99 per cent of Phnom Penh's 2.12 million adult population by July 8, said Xinhua news agency.

Laos is under a lockdown until next Monday (July 19), after workers returning from Thailand were found to be infected with the Delta strain. It has stepped up vaccination, with more than 600,000 of its over seven million population having been fully vaccinated so far. It aims to vaccinate 50 per cent of the people by the year end.

While other nations are cranking up their inoculation drives, the same cannot be said of Myanmar, where civil unrest has paralysed an already overstretched healthcare system.

Days before the Feb 1 coup, Myanmar had begun one of the region's first vaccination campaigns centred on the AstraZeneca vaccine, but this has since stalled amid deep public mistrust of the military government. At least 3.5 million doses have been given to Myanmar's 55 million people so far. China donated 500,000 doses of vaccine in May while Russia has agreed to send two million doses.

Ahead in South-east Asia is Singapore, where over 40 per cent of the people are fully vaccinated. But it is facing growing cases linked to KTV outlets and nightclubs, which could be its biggest active cluster yet outside migrant worker dormitories.

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