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Cambodia receives first batch of AstraZeneca donations from Japan; announces Aug 1 start for child vaccinations

A box with 332,000 doses of AstraZeneca donated by Japan arrives at Phnom Penh International airport on Friday night, July 23, 2021. CamboJA/ Panha Chhorpoan
A box with 332,000 doses of AstraZeneca donated by Japan arrives at Phnom Penh International airport on Friday night, July 23, 2021. CamboJA/ Panha Chhorpoan

Cambodia received 332,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Friday, the first portion of one million doses donated by Japanese government.

The country will also soon receive one million doses of the American Johnson & Johnson vaccine through the COVAX facility.

Prime Minister Hun Sen, who went to welcome the delivery, said the donation reflects Japan’s generosity.

“And [it is] a high responsibility in supporting countries with limited resources and capabilities in the battle against COVID-19,” he said. “This donation will contribute to accelerating vaccination for Cambodian people.”

The prime minister said that inoculations for more than two million children aged between 12 and 17 years will start August 1, starting with 280,000 children in Phnom Penh.

“I would like to remind all parents that they are advised to get their children vaccinated against the epidemic… so do not worry… and there is no risk for vaccination,” he said.

Japanese Ambassador Mikami Masahiro said that these vaccines will contribute to the fight against COVID-19.

“And this will encourage the Cambodian people, who are important friends of the Japanese, to work together to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Cambodia and the development in Cambodia,” he said.

According to the Japanese Embassy in Cambodia, the Japanese government has so far provided a total of more than $50 million worth of pandemic assistance to Cambodia, including medical equipment, hospital renovations and equipment to properly carry and store vaccines.

Cambodia has one of the highest rates of vaccination in ASEAN, with nearly 40 percent of the population having received at least one dose. Prime Minister Hun Sen has  pledged to vaccinate 10 million people by October this year by using a total of more than 20 million doses of primarily Chinese-made vaccines to hit their target.

Of 17 million doses the country has acquired thus far, 6.2 million are from Sinopharm, 10.5 million from Sinovac, and 324,000 from AstraZeneca. The latter came through the COVAX facility, a global initiative to supply vaccinations to poorer nations. China donated 2.2 million doses of Sinopharm while the rest was purchased by the Cambodian government.

Health Ministry Secretary of State Yuk Sambath, said on Thursday that the government will use five million doses of Sinovac and one million doses of Johnson & Johnson to inoculate children and youth aged between 12 and 17.

She did not say when the Johnson & Johnson vaccine will arrive in Cambodia.

Arend C. Zwartjes, public affairs officer at the U.S. Embassy in Phnom Penh, said the United States is working closely with the Royal Government of Cambodia, COVAX, the World Health Organization, and UNICEF to deliver vaccine doses.

“We look forward to receiving those doses very soon,” he said. “Our goal is to get shots into arms as fast as we can. We are working day and night to deliver doses to Cambodia as quickly as possible.”

Pech Pisey, executive director of Transparency International Cambodia, said​ getting more COVID-19 vaccines from the west would allow Cambodia to diversify its vaccine supply.

“The assistance will reflect the continuation of cooperation between those countries and the building of democracy, respect for human rights and the development of Cambodia,” he said.

On Friday, the Health Ministry reported 825 new cases of COVID-19 and 34 deaths, bringing the total count to 71,244 cases and 1222 deaths respectively since the pandemic began in early 2020.