The Health Ministry says Cambodia will not have enough doses to distribute to the whole population when the World Health Organization finally approves any COVID-19 vaccine.
Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine said yesterday that this was despite the fact that Cambodia is a member of The Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunizations (Gavi).
WHO has in coordination with Gavi and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) created a mechanism aimed at ensuring a more equitable distribution of any future COVID-19 vaccines.
But the mechanism, known as Covax, has reportedly struggled to raise the funds needed to provide for the 92 low-income countries and other economies that quickly signed up.
The aim is for Covax to lay its hands on two billion doses of safe and effective vaccines by the end of 2021.
Vandine told Khmer Times yesterday the Ministry of Health in July, had called for the provision of equitable vaccines to Cambodia, through the Covax mechanism.
Despite several countries having done so, Vandine said Cambodia did not pre-order any vaccine, but it is a member of the International Vaccine Alliance. Therefore, if there is an official announcement that a vaccine can be used, Cambodia can also buy or accept the vaccine.
She said Cambodia cannot buy vaccine doses to distribute to all citizens, because the production and sale of the first vaccine will be limited due to concerns over side effects. “Therefore, we can provide the vaccine to the people step by step,” she added.
“As we all know, the Secretary-General of the World Health Organization has always called for the distribution of vaccines to be fair between countries, avoiding selfishness or prejudice against any country,” Vandine noted.
On the expected limited supply of the vaccine, she added that Cambodia has not yet decided whether to purchase doses to protect the senior government officials or frontline medical staff first.
Vandine said that any vaccine approved will not be enough to be distributed to everyone in the world.
She added that even if a vaccine is available, the Ministry of Health and WHO still require people to take preventive measures against the virus.
“In my opinion, if we can implement measures to prevent COVID-19 infection, we will almost certainly not need to be vaccinated. Therefore, we should urge the continuation of self-protection rather than negligence. Although there are no new cases of COVID-19 in Cambodia, the coronavirus is still spreading around the world and neighbouring countries,“she said.
On Monday, WHO announced that the allocation of vaccines, once licenced and approved, will be guided by an allocation framework by WHO following the principle of fair and equitable access, ensuring no participating economy will be left behind.
Policies determining the prioritisation of vaccine rollout within economies will be guided by recommendations from the WHO Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE), which has recently released a values framework establishing a basis for immunisation work on target populations and policies on vaccine use.
“COVID-19 is an unprecedented global crisis that demands an unprecedented global response,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “Vaccine nationalism will only perpetuate the disease and prolong the global recovery. Working together through the Covax Facility is not charity, it’s in every country’s own best interests to control the pandemic and accelerate the global economic recovery.”
Meanwhile, a Health Ministry secretary of state, York Sambath, said yesterday that since the global outbreak of COVID-19, Cambodia had tested a total of 124,000 people and direct and indirect stakeholders from January to Monday.
“Of the more than 120,000 tests, nearly 80,000 were done at the Institut Pasteur and about 50,000 at the Institute of Public Health,” she said.
Sambath said that during the same period, 53,815 foreign travellers entered Cambodia and were tested.
“Our health officials continue to enforce the existing health rules at all ports of entry, including land, sea and air. Therefore, the quick response officers and the quarantine officers, are still on duty 24 hours a day, even during national holidays,” she added.
Cambodia has 275 COVID-19 cases with 274 recoveries and no death. A 54-year-old British man patient is receiving treatment at the Khmer Soviet Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh.
Since the first case was detected in Preah Sihanouk province in late January, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit 13 provinces and Phnom Penh.