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AstraZeneca jabs touch down in Phnom Penh airport

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The first shipment of 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/SII Covid-19 vaccine is delivered to Phnom Penh International Airport on Tuesday. Heng Chivoan

AstraZeneca jabs touch down in Phnom Penh airport

The first shipment of 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/SII vaccine which was provided through the Covid-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility was delivered to Phnom Penh International Airport on March 2. The rest of the COVAX provided vaccines will arrive in Cambodia at a later date.

The first person to receive this vaccine will be Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has announced that he plans to be vaccinated on March 4 at Calmette Hospital.

Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng, as a representative of the Royal Government of Cambodia, was joined by World Health Organisation (WHO) representative to Cambodia Dr Li Ailan and UNICEF’s Cambodia Representative Foroogh Foyouzat at Phnom Penh International Airport to accept the vaccines.

Developed by AstraZeneca with the University of Oxford, the vaccines were produced by Serum Institute of India (SII).

Health ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine stated in a press release on February 28 that Cambodia would receive further shipments of vaccines through the COVAX Facility in incremental shipments later this year with a total of 1.1 million doses supplied over the first half of 2021.

COVAX will deliver 6.4 million doses of its two-dose regimen to 3.2 million people, accounting for 20 per cent of Cambodia’s 16 million population.

Also of note, the Chinese embassy in Cambodia on March 1 said in a Facebook post that China had decided to provide a second phase with another 400,000 donated doses of the Sinopharm Covid-19 vaccine to Cambodia, which would arrive ahead of Khmer New Year in April.

Arriving in Cambodia on February 7, the first shipment of 600,000 Sinopharm vaccines were part of the one million doses donated by China.

The health ministry said 24,331 people have been vaccinated with their first dose of the Sinopharm vaccines.

The Ministry of National Defence also announced that they have vaccinated 75,198 members of the armed forces with their first doses of the Sinopharm vaccine as well.

Vandine told reporters late in the evening on March 2 when she went to receive the AstraZeneca vaccines sent from India through COVAX at the Phnom Penh International Airport that the ministry is now ready to both transport and store the vaccine, which requires ultra-low temperatures.

“Obtaining this vaccine is yet another achievement that comes from the efforts of the head of the government, Samdech Prime Minister Hun Sen – and the vaccines will be used soon but first we are waiting for the prime minister’s recommendation after he gets the first jab at Calmette Hospital on March 4,” she said.

UNICEF's Foyouzat applauded the government and its efforts to ensure the Kingdom would meet the requirements of the COVAX programme to make Cambodia among the first countries in the Western Pacific Region to take delivery of a vaccine shipment through COVAX.

She reiterated calls for the public to remain vigilant. “I want to emphasise that vaccines alone cannot end the global pandemic, we all have to continue to implement preventive measures such as wearing masks and cleaning our hands,” she said.

WHO's Dr Li Ailan said the day was a historic one for Cambodia.

“We at the WHO are so proud to be here [with Cambodia] today. If the Covid vaccines are [administered to most of the population] along with other [restrictive] public health measures, the pandemic will end," she said.

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