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Kingdom expects 20M doses of Covid vaccine

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Ministry of Economy and Finance secretary of state Vongsey Vissoth during a press conference in Phnom Penh on January 27. Hong Menea

Kingdom expects 20M doses of Covid vaccine

The Kingdom will acquire up to 20 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, including 11 million coming through donations by Cambodia’s development partners.

The figures were revealed by Ministry of Economy and Finance secretary of state Vongsey Vissoth during a press conference in Phnom Penh on January 27.

“We are preparing to receive 20 million doses. I should not talk about this now, but I must answer your questions. Regarding these 20 million, we have already outlined our plan, and tomorrow we will discuss this further,” he said.

Cambodia anticipates receiving seven million doses donated through the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) COVAX initiative. In February, vaccines produced by Chinese firm Sinopharm are due to begin arriving in the country, and vaccinations will proceed immediately, he said.

Vissoth noted that Australia had recently committed to provide a grant of A$35 million (US$28 million) for the purchase of three million doses through either WHO or UNICEF.

Cambodia has also made official requests to India and Russia for vaccines, he said.

The Chinese government recently promised that it would donate one million doses, with the first 300,000 scheduled to arrive next month. Cambodia may also use grants provided by China to purchase additional doses from their suppliers.

Vissoth said the Kingdom’s national budget includes provisions for vaccine purchases, and $57 million has been donated by the general public to acquire more.

Regarding Britain’s vaccine, he said: “We have already contacted them. It is very easy to buy the British vaccines. We can buy as much as we want at a cost of just $4 per dose, and they will be available in Thailand which requires just an hour to transport here.

“So in terms of vaccines, there will not be a problem for Cambodia. What will be necessary to address is preservation, transportation and roll-out procedures. The management of associated waste will also be an issue.”

Vissoth said the government would divide vaccine rollouts into two phases, starting first in Phnom Penh and then across the country. In the capital, the Ministry of Health will register those who will be vaccinated using the ministry’s mobile app. A separate vaccination platform for the whole country is under construction.

“We have a vision that Cambodia, despite being a poor country, can deal quickly with vaccine purchasing and rollout. This is one of the best things we can do to revise our economy and attract investors looking for opportunities in the region,” he said.

The Australian embassy in Cambodia said the two governments were holding high-level discussions about support for vaccine purchases, and an announcement would be forthcoming soon.

On January 22, Prime Minister Hun Sen said he had also made an official request for vaccines with the South Korea. And when Sinopharm’s vaccines arrive from China, he will go to welcome the shipment at the airport and be the first person inoculated, he said.

The vaccine will be distributed on a voluntary basis with priority given to those who interact with the public, from health officials to drivers for hire.

Ath Sophorn, a call centre staff member of taxi-hiring service PassApp, said when the government rolls out vaccinations, his company will push drivers to get vaccinated.

“If the government rolls out the vaccines, we will follow their lead. We will encourage drivers to get the jab because it could prevent them from contracting the disease. They won’t be nervous about it anymore,” he said.

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