The Australian government announced on February 1 that it has provided a grant of $28 million for the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines approved by World Health Organisation (WHO) for 1.5 million Cambodians.

A joint press release from Australian ambassador Pablo Kang and Minister of Economy and Finance Aun Pornmoniroth said: “Australia’s grant is likely to enable at least 1.5 million Cambodians to be vaccinated against Covid-19. This contribution will significantly assist the Royal Government of Cambodia to meet its goal of vaccinating 80 per cent of the population.”

The press release said that while the majority of Australia’s grant will be used to purchase vaccines for citizens, the package will also provide financing for their distribution and administration of the campaign, including monitoring vaccination safety and efficacy as well as ensuring the public has access to clear information about the vaccination process.

“As a neighbour and longstanding friend of Cambodia, we are pleased to be able to lend a hand in this time of need. In recognition that nobody is safe until everyone is safe, our support is likely to help vaccinate at least 1.5 million Cambodians and will go a long way towards supporting widespread access to WHO-approved vaccines in Cambodia,” Kang said.

The press release said that although Cambodia has so far avoided serious health impacts from the pandemic, widespread vaccination remains critical to prevent future outbreaks and rebuild economic activity.

Pornmoniroth lauded the grant as reaffirming Australia’s sustained support and long-term commitment to Cambodia’s socio-economic development and a promising future.

This package comes in addition to $50 million of development assistance that Australia will deliver to the Kingdom this year under the Cambodia-Australia Covid-19 Development Response Plan, launched in December.

“This support will be in addition to the vaccines Cambodia will receive from the multilateral COVAX facility, which will cover up to 20 per cent of Cambodians for free and to which Australia has also made a significant contribution,” he said.

While speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the Bakheng water treatment plant and the inauguration of the Chamcar Mon water treatment facility on February 1, Prime Minister Hun Sen said Australia’s grant amounted to providing three million doses of Covid-19 vaccines with the first shipment due for delivery in the middle of this year.

Hun Sen noted that Cambodia is seeking assistance from friendly nations and development partners to reserve 20 million vaccine doses to inoculate 10 million citizens. The Kingdom has already received pledges to provide 11 million doses.

“We still lack nine million doses, but from where can we get them? I wrote a letter to the Chinese president asking for more. I wrote a letter to the Indian prime minister. We have also already determined to buy AstraZeneca vaccines from England,” he said.

Hun Sen also mentioned Cambodian migrant workers in quarantine in the seven provinces along the Thai border, noting that there were more than 3,600 in Banteay Meanchey, 2,000 in Oddar Meanchey and over 1,000 in Battambang.

He announced the provision of an additional 200 million riel (US$50,000) in aid to Banteay Meanchey and 50 million riel to Koh Kong province for the operations of their quarantine facilities.

The first 600,000 doses of vaccines from China had been scheduled to arrive this month, and Minister of National Defence Tea Banh told reporters on February 1 at the Army Institute in Kampong Speu that the vaccines will arrive soon.

“Members of China’s People’s Liberation Army have arrived, and they are here to manage vaccine storage and use. The Ministry of National Defence has determined that on February 3, Chinese Army specialists will introduce the vaccines to doctors in the Kingdom and provide instructions regarding procedures for care, storage, usage and transport,” he said.

Banh added: “Overall, the defence ministry’s preparations are complete. The Ministry of Health has also agreed to arrange for doctors to attend the briefings so that they will be prepared to administer vaccine shots.”