More than 1.5 million of the five million Covid-19 vaccine doses expected to arrive from China this month touched down in Phnom Penh on March 29, with the remaining expected the next day.
The five million are part of the 20 million doses that Chinese President Xi Jinping has recently pledged to provide to Cambodia.
While receiving the shipment at Phnom Penh International Airport, Ministry of Health secretary of state Youk Sambath noted that these five million doses are the first phase of the donation.
“When Cambodia needs more vaccines, China will arrange for delivery according to our needs. We may ask China to begin the second phase after September, because we will receive an additional 7.5 million doses through Covax between April and September,” she said, referring to the global mechanism aimed at securing equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.
Ultimately, the decision would be made by the national Covid-19 vaccination committee, she added.
Sambath said the government continued to encourage the public to keep their vaccinations up to date to reduce the rates of infections and deaths from the virus.
“Vaccinations are an important strategy that helps both Cambodians and foreigners in the Kingdom avoid serious symptoms from the disease,” she said.
“I don’t think there is another country that has provided as many vaccines to Cambodia as China, but at the same time we are working with partner countries through Covax. Other nations have provided assistance, including Australia, Poland, the US, Hungary and Italy,” she said.
A senior Chinese embassy official who joined the handover ceremony said China would continue to deliver vaccines for Cambodia citizens. He said Cambodia has achieved remarkably good results with its vaccination campaign, with the Kingdom having among the highest vaccination figures in not just the region, but the world.
President Xi announced the provision of 20 million vaccine doses in a telephone meeting with Hun Sen on March 18.
Hun Sen said on March 29 that China was the first to deliver vaccines to Cambodia, with 600,000 vaccine doses arriving on February 7 last year.
“China has provided a great deal of assistance in Cambodia’s fight to control the spread of the virus and protect the lives of its people. To date, China has gifted 28,724,800 vaccines to the Kingdom – of which 20 million are part of the new aid agreement,” he said in a Facebook post.
Cambodia has so far vaccinated more than 92 per cent of the population aged 3 years and older, with these “incredible” figures attributable to its early acceptance of Chinese support, he added.
He said vaccine assistance had made a significant contribution to limiting the spread of the virus, and led directly to the reopening of the country, under the new normal.