Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine has announced that Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines will be sent to provincial health departments soon after specialised freezers needed to keep the doses at the required temperatures are installed.
Vandine emphasised that the installation of these specialised freezers required proper inspection by trained technicians, or risked spoiling entire batches of the vaccine.
“It’s not that the vaccines will immediately follow the arrival of the freezers, as the vaccines require a different storage temperature than other vaccines. The freezers must also be in locations that are technically appropriate. Otherwise, they will fail to work,” she said on March 3.
But she also noted that experts have been working around the clock with health departments in every province to install freezers at locations designated by provinces and districts. “I think it will not be long before the vaccine can be sent to provinces so that Cambodians can begin to administer the vaccines to priority groups,” Vandine said.
The Cambodian government on February 28 received 33 freezers donated by the Australian government to store the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. It had also given the Kingdom 100 freezers and other cooling systems for the storage of other vaccines and equipment required to administer them.
The Australian Embassy in Cambodia said that the 133 freezers were part of a $35.7 million AUD support package from the Australian government in partnership with UNICEF. The package includes 2.35 million doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine delivered to Cambodia last December.
The specialised freezers will keep the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine suitable for use in all provinces for a significant period of time. The UNICEF team announced that it would assist in installing the equipment, provide training on their use, and monitor the benefit of their provision. The equipment could continue to be used after the Covid-19 crisis to strengthen the national health care system in the future, the NGO said.
The Cambodian government launched the Covid-19 vaccination campaigns for fourth doses in early January with the batch of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine donated by Australia.
Currently, only Phnom Penh residents are able to receive a fourth dose of the vaccine as the capital remains the only place in the Kingdom with the specialised freezers already installed.
Vandine reminded the public that the Omicron variant was still spreading and warned that the number of cases would be far higher than the daily public figure reported as it only reflected individuals who had taken PCR tests at official sites, and did not include those who had taken rapid tests and recovered at home.
She urged public health officials to conduct a census of households to find out which members had not received their vaccinations and to offer it to them in mobile sites for ease and accessibility.
The Ministry of Health reported that more than 14 million people had received a first dose as of March 2. Just over 13 million people received a second dose, seven million received a third dose or booster shot, and nearly 100,000 have received a fourth dose.