Cambodian health officials have denied reports that a 39-year-old Cambodian medical worker in Siem Reap province died on Tuesday shortly after being vaccinated, claiming instead that the worker had a heart condition.
Cambodia started vaccinating people against COVID-19 on February 10 after the arrival of the Chinese-made Sinopharm vaccine. Frontline medical workers, government officials, and security personnel are among the 300,000 people who will be inoculated in this first phase of vaccinations.
Seang Tola, a health worker at Siem Reap Provincial Hospital, died in the early hours of March 2, hours after he had received his first dose of the Sinopharm COVID-19 vaccine on Monday. A hospital statement said the death was not linked to the vaccine and that Seang Tola passed away due to a heart attack.
“Seang Tola died immediately due to myocardial infarction and it was not linked with the COVID-19 vaccinations,” read the statement.
According to the statement, Tola told his wife the evening of March 1 that he was tired and had experienced chest pain.
“Before going to bed, he said he had chest pain and was exhausted since he didn’t take much rest,” the hospital said in the statement.
News spread on social media attempting to link Seang Tola’s death to the Sinopharm vaccine, which has faced criticism for its efficacy and has yet to be validated by the World Health Organization.
VOA Khmer could not reach Seang Tola’s family for comment on Thursday.
Pen Phalkun, head of Siem Reap Provincial Referral Hospital, did not want to comment on the case, directing to the statement instead.
“I clarified everything [in the statement]. I don’t have anything to add. It is enough,” he said.
Kros Sarath, director of Siem Reap Provincial Health Department, also did not want to comment and said the case had been closed.
“The referral hospital in Siem Reap province has assessed [the case] already,” he said. “I am not involved in assessing this case.”
Or Vandine, a Health Ministry secretary of state, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.
Public health experts have urged caution with China’s COVID-19 vaccines, which have not been recognized by the World Health Organization. In Cambodia, the vaccine is administered to people under the age of 60 and excludes people who have a wide range of medical conditions.
As of Thursday, more than 80,000 Cambodians, including senior government officials, medical workers, security forces had been injected with the Sinopharm vaccine.
On Tuesday, Cambodia received 324,000 doses of the Indian-made AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine through the World Health Organization-backed COVAX vaccine program.
Prime Minister Hun Sen, who previously said he is too old to get the Sinopharm vaccine, was injected with the AstraZeneca vaccine on Thursday.
In a press conference on Thursday, he urged people below the age of 60 to get the Sinopharm vaccine and those older to take the AstraZeneca vaccine.
“People are now in need of vaccines. For those who are unhappy with the [Chinese] vaccine, it is their problem because this is voluntary,” he said. “For those who think vaccines are killing people, you don’t need to get one,” he said.