A senior Cambodian official said the country had made arrangements to buy or receive at least 20 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, which would help inoculate 10 million people or close to two-thirds of the population.
Vongsey Vissoth, who is a secretary of state at the Economy and Finance Ministry, made the announcement at the public forum on Wednesday. He said of the 20 million doses, 11 million will be given free of cost by partner countries and the World Health Organization’s COVAX program.
“We will receive 7million doses through COVAX mechanism, 1 million doses from China and other 3 million doses from Australian aid,” he said.
The COVAX mechanism will provide vaccines for not more than 20 percent of a country’s population. The program was created to ensure a more equitable rollout of vaccines, though no vaccines have been released by the mechanism so far.
Health Ministry Secretary of State Or Vandine said that Cambodia will receive vaccines to inoculate 3.2 million Cambodians from the COVAX vaccine development project.
The government was looking to vaccinate at least 80 percent of the population, she said, which was around 13 million people.
“We still waiting as WHO is working on a vaccine and reviewing many vaccines. We hope that the updated information on COVAX’s vaccine may be available during March this year if the valuation process goes smoothly,” she said.
Last week, Prime Minister Hun Sen announced that Cambodia will get 1 million doses of China’s Sinopharm vaccine. He had previously said Cambodia would only use vaccines approved by the WHO, but said the multilateral body was taking too long to sign off on vaccines.
Vissoth said Australia has promised to provide financial assistance $28 million for Cambodia to buy 3 million doses of vaccine. Given this budget, Cambodia will have to purchase the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccines or any other vaccines in the price range of $5 a dose.
India and Russia had also been approached to provide vaccines to Cambodia, he added.
An Australia Embassy spokesperson told CamboJA on Wednesday that the Embassy will make the announcement about vaccine support soon.
“The government of Australian is in high-level discussions with Cambodian government about the vaccine support,” the embassy said.
Visoth said the government had allocated national budget and $57 million from individual donations, which it had solicited over the last month, to buy 9 million additional doses to reach the 20 million doses mark.
“This is a good sign for economic recovery; the vaccine is part of the strategy to help boost the Cambodian economy and give confidence to investors and business people,” he said.
Ho Vandy, an adviser to the Cambodia Chamber of Commerce, said mass vaccination will be a positive sign for the COVID-19-hit tourism sector.
“It will instil confidence in people, especially for both local and international tourists. People will not worry about the COVID-19 and this will help the tourism sector recover faster,” he said.
Cambodia expects to receive first 300,000 doses of vaccine out of 1 million doses from China in February.