Claiming: Cambodia did not have a COVID-19 outbreak until vaccines arrived
Opponents of vaccination are looking to Cambodia to falsely claim that vaccines could actually make COVID-19 more dangerous.
“Cambodia is one of the most vaccinated countries in the world: 81.3% of the population have received at least one dose of the vaccine,” said a Facebook post on October 6th. “And there are now more COVID-19 ‘cases’ in Cambodia than ever before. According to official government figures, there were no morbidity issues in the country prior to the advent of vaccines for Covid.”
The post didn’t garner a lot of stocks, but similar claims circulated on Instagram, messaging apps like Telegram, and blogs like Before It’s News. Some of the posts compare a graph of the daily COVID-19 case numbers in Cambodia with one of the vaccination rates.
Fact check: Misleading claim that Norway “reclassified” COVID-19 risk
It is true that Cambodia had no more than 400 cases or one death from COVID by early 2021, around the time the vaccine hit. But there’s no link between increased vaccinations and increased cases, experts say.
USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook user who shared the claim to leave a comment.
The Cambodian outbreak had nothing to do with its vaccine
Since the beginning of the global pandemic, Cambodia has done remarkably well compared to other countries. Reuters’ worldwide COVID-19 tracker reveals that Cambodia did not see a major outbreak as of late February, which ultimately led to a spike that officials are still working to contain. The country’s first COVID-19 death didn’t occur until March 11.
According to the Brookings Institute, many attributed the outbreak to four Chinese nationals who broke the quarantine on Feb.20.
Fact check: The COVID-19 vaccination has no effect on blood color
As of October 5, the day before this post, Cambodian officials had reported 113,475 infections and 2,406 deaths. Cambodia reported its first community broadcast in December 2020.
In May 2020, experts told Voice of America that Cambodia’s comparatively positive pandemic results were likely due to a combination of luck factors. Despite the poor government health policies at the start of the pandemic, experts said the COVID-19 numbers in Cambodia benefited from the following factors:
- Systematic case count
- International aid
- Effective security measures in neighboring countries
- Cultural practices such as wearing masks and not shaking hands
Cambodia’s representative to the World Health Organization, Dr. Ailan Li, attributed the country’s low numbers to its relatively small and young population.
Vaccines protect against COVID-19 – they don’t cause it
Cambodia has given vaccines that have been shown to reduce severe COVID-19 infections in much of its population.
The country has administered the Sinovac, Sinopharm and AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines. Each vaccine has been shown to reduce recipients’ susceptibility to COVID-19.
Cambodia began its vaccination campaign in early February, starting with Prime Minister Hun Sen’s three sons. In the months since then, the country has continued to vaccinate its people. According to Reuters, by October 5, 81% of Cambodians had received at least one dose of vaccine.
Fact check: Canada’s chief public health officer didn’t get Bell’s paralysis from the COVID-19 vaccine
On October 2, the Cambodian Ministry of Health recorded the lowest daily number of new COVID-19 cases since mid-April. Officials attributed the drop in cases to the country’s rising vaccination rate.
Our assessment: Lack of context
Based on our research, we evaluate the claim that Cambodia did not have a COVID-19 outbreak until the vaccines arrived MISSING CONTEXT as it is misleading without additional information. The country experienced its largest outbreak around the same time that its vaccination campaign began, but vaccines did not cause the outbreak. Approved COVID-19 vaccines have been clinically proven to reduce recipients’ risk of contracting COVID-19 and suffering severe symptoms and death. Cambodian health officials have attributed recent improvements in case numbers to the country’s high vaccination rate.
Our fact check sources:
- Brookings Institute, May 19th, COVID-19 is coming to Cambodia
- Reuters, accessed October 5, COVID-19 Tracker, Cambodia
- Global News, March 11th Cambodia experiences its first death from COVID-19 per year in the pandemic
- ABC News, December 3, 2020, Cambodia has zero COVID-19 deaths and just reported its first case of community transmission
- Voice of America, July 3, 2020, Happiness, Culture Helped Cambodia Contain Coronavirus
- World Health Organization, Sep 2, The Sinovac-CoronaVac COVID-19 Vaccine: What You Need To Know
- World Health Organization, Sep 2, The Sinopharm COVID-19 Vaccine: What You Need To Know
- World Health Organization, Sep 2, The Oxford / AstraZeneca COVID-19 Vaccine: What You Need To Know
- ABC News, February 10, Cambodia begins vaccination campaign against COVID-19
- Reuters, accessed October 5, COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker
- XinhuaNet, Oct. 2, Cambodia’s COVID-19 cases are falling as over 83 percent of the population are vaccinated
Contributor: Daniel Funke
Thank you for supporting our journalism. Here you can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica.
Our fact-checking work is partially supported by a grant from Facebook.