A total of 783,000 doses of Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccines out of a promised 2.3 million doses from the Australian government arrived in Cambodia on the evening of December 26 and were received directly by Prime Minister Hun Sen at the Phnom Penh International Airport.

The rest of the Australian vaccine donation is expected to arrive on December 28 or later.

“With generous donations from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and UNICEF’s support, we are pleased to announce the imminent arrival of 2.35 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccines to Cambodia,” tweeted UNICEF Cambodia on December 26.

The ceremonial handover was presided over by Hun Sen and Australia’s deputy ambassador to Cambodia Andreas Zurbrugg.

Zurbrugg said the vaccines were provided through bilateral contacts between the two nations and were donated by Australia totally free of charge but the vaccines production and procurement process took a little longer than his government had expected due to the intense global demands for vaccines amid the pandemic.

He also mentioned that Australia recently donated an additional A$135 million to the Covax Facility.

Zurbrugg congratulated the Cambodian government on doing a great job combating Covid-19 over the past two years and proactively undertaking numerous measures and initiatives starting at the very earliest stages of the crisis through to today.

Hun Sen thanked the Australian government for their donation of the Pfizer vaccines while also using the occasion to announce 15 new cases of Omicron were found on December 26, all of them imported.

“Now, 31 Omicron cases have been registered in Cambodia, but three of those patients have already recovered,” Hun Sen said. “I take this opportunity to remind our people to be vigilant, but don’t panic. We do want to prevent this variant from spreading in our country, but it is not strong like Delta.

“Please be vigilant, compatriots, because Omicron is highly transmissible,” he said. “I hope that Omicron will not spread through our communities like Alpha and Delta.”

Hun Sen said last week that the vaccines donated by Australia will be used as booster shots for frontline workers such as the military and medical nurses and doctors as well as others, totalling about 500,000 people. The fourth doses will be given soon to further boost herd immunity in light of the global spread of Omicron.

Hun Sen has said that for Cambodia’s fight against the virus, he tried to find vaccines that he could provide to people in a timely manner and that those vaccines have by now saved many lives.

“We have a high rate of immunity in the community, which is why our people support the government’s vaccination policy,” he said.

According to the prime minister, Cambodia has received over 41 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines so far during the course of the pandemic, both via purchases, donations and bilateral agreements through China, the US, UK, Japan, Covax Facility and other partners.

Or Vandine, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Health and chair of the national Covid-19 vaccination committee, said on December 24 that people who have been vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson vaccines should be sure to get their booster shots right away.

Different from most of the vaccines developed against Covid-19, the US-made Johnson & Johnson jab required just one dose per person, but Vandine said booster shots – using any of the available vaccines – were recommended now that new variants had arrived.

“Please come and get your booster shots or if you’re unvaccinated, come and get your first dose. If you’ve had a first dose and you forget to get the second, come now and get it taken care of. And all those who need to be vaccinated with their third or booster doses, come now and get them so you can boost your antibodies before Omicron starts circulating in the community,” she said.

According to a report by the health ministry, as of December 25, Covid-19 vaccinations in Cambodia have reached 89.03 per cent of the country’s total population of around 16 million.