On December 17, several government ministries called an emergency meeting with major aid organisations and partner nations about a procurement plan for Covid-19 vaccines and plans for implementing a vaccination programme.

Government representatives participating in the video-conference included Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng and Ministry of Economy and Finance secretary of state Vongsey Vissoth.

Partner organisations included UNICEF Cambodia, the Asian Development Bank, the World Bank; the World Health Organisation, the Global Fund, the European Parliament in Cambodia, the GAVI Alliance and COVAX Facility, as well as the Australian, Chinese, Japanese, Russian, British, South Korean, US and French embassies in Cambodia.

Vissoth said the meeting’s aim was to consult with development partners in a comprehensive manner to formulate strategic plans for vaccinating the Cambodian population with a safe, high quality and effective vaccine.

“The government will buy a vaccine that is recognised by the World Health Organisation, whether that’s through COVAX Facility, via direct purchase from pharmaceutical companies or through bilateral diplomatic channels,” he said.

He stated that Cambodia had the goal of vaccinating 10 million people against Covid-19. The COVAX Facility would provide vaccines for three to four million people.

The government would assume the responsibility for vaccinating the remaining six to seven million people by seeking aid from other development partners.

Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine told The Post on December 17 that while many Cambodians were hopeful about a vaccine, they need to remain patient while waiting for its arrival and remember that the vaccine is only one part of a solution for stopping the pandemic. Until they are vaccinated people must continue to follow recommended health measures consistently.

“We must wait patiently for the vaccine shots, and we can’t completely depend on them. We need to depend on ourselves for protection by taking the right precautions. Every individual has to remember that no one needs to become a victim of Covid-19 as long as we each continue to carry out the hygienic measures that are most effective at preventing infection,” she said.

Vandine also called for unity of purpose among the Cambodian people in order to prevent Covid-19 from infecting communities on a large scale. The chain of infection from person to person must be severed, she said.

On December 17 the health ministry also announced that five people who had been infected during the November 28 community transmission incident had now recovered and were discharged from the Khmer-Soviet Friendship Hospital.

The recovered patients include a 64 year-old Cambodian woman from Chamkarmon district’s Tuol Tompoung I commune who is the mother-in-law of Chhem Savuth, director-general of the General Department of Prisons, as well as a 25 year-old Cambodian woman living in Chbar Ampov district’s Niroth commune who is the sister of Savuth’s driver – and her seven month-old infant.

A 23 year-old Cambodian man living in Chbar Ampov district employed by the Bank of China and another 23 year-old Cambodian man from Sen Sok district employed by the footwear retailer Pedro have also both recovered.

Forty-one people were confirmed infected in connection with the November 28 community transmission, and as of December 17, 13 had recovered. In total, 38 Covid-19 patients in Cambodia remain hospitalised and receiving treatment.