The first shipment of 600,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine donated by China arrived in Cambodia on February 7 and was received at Phnom Penh International Airport by Prime Minister Hun Sen together with Chinese ambassador Wang Wentian.
The vaccines were carried by a specially equipped aircraft which arrived from China at 4pm. Speaking at a ceremony to hand over the vaccines, Hun Sen thanked the Chinese government and people for making the donation.
He described the donation as an important new step in the cooperation between the two countries which reflects the ironclad strength of their relationship within a comprehensive framework of cooperative strategies for building a community with common destiny.
“We have received the vaccine today because of the solid cooperation between Cambodia and China. If not for this relationship, we would not have achieved this for our people.
“On behalf of the government, I would like to request further assistance from the Chinese government, and I am hopeful that we will continue to receive it incrementally,” Hun Sen said.
After the handover ceremony, the prime minister held a press conference explaining that he had cancelled his vaccination scheduled for February 10.
He said he had already undergone a two-day diet in preparation for being vaccinated before receiving a letter from the Chinese embassy informing him that the vaccine is intended for people between the ages of 18-59. The safety and efficacy of the vaccine for people over 60 years old was still being studied.
Hun Sen agreed, however, to let his three sons and the children of other high ranking officials get vaccinated. Ministers younger than 60 years old, such as Minister of Education, Youth and Sport Hang Chuon Naron, Minister of Environment Say Sam Al and Minister of Justice Koeut Rith, along with some army commanders, would also be permitted to take the shot.
“I approve of letting my three sons get vaccinated, as well as my two sons-in-law and commanders of the army,” he said, adding that the vaccination of officials would demonstrate the government’s responsibility.
Hun Sen also said Cambodia is seeking to buy vaccines from other countries, and Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng might enter negotiations with the Indian embassy for vaccine purchases as soon as February 8.
Chinese ambassador Wang noted that Cambodia is one of the first countries to receive Covid-19 vaccines from China. He said the donation of the vaccine indicated the special, deep relationship between the two nations.
“I hope that these vaccines will actively contribute to helping Cambodia fight against the pandemic. Covid-19 continues to spread rapidly around the world. Solidarity in preventing spread of the virus remains a major task for the international community,” Wang said.
Wang confirmed that China will provide 10 million doses of their vaccine for distribution by the World Health Organisation-approved COVAX facility to meet the urgent needs of developing countries. He described the allocation as an important measure to support the health of the global community and the vaccine as a product belonging to the world.
The first shipment of the vaccines will be divided equally between the ministries of Health and National Defence, with each set to receive 300,000 doses.
In response to Hun Sen’s request to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, the Indian government has approved the distribution of 100,000 doses of their vaccine for Cambodia, the Indian embassy announced on February 5.
“The decision is a testament to India’s appreciation for Cambodia as an important partner and its concern for the health and prosperity of the people of Cambodia,” the announcement read.
It noted that supplies of the vaccine would be provided through the Serum Institute of India, despite competing requests from other countries and commitments to their own population.