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Vaccine promise from a good friend: China will provide doses to Cambodia

Khann Chanvirak / Khmer Times Share:
Prime Minister Hun Sen welcomes Chinese Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi at the Peace Palace yesterday. KT/Khem Sovannara

China has promised that Cambodia will be one of the first countries to get a COVID-19 vaccine once one of those being developed and in the final stages of testing becomes available.

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Chinese State Councillor and Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi made the promise during a meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong, co-chair of the Cambodia-China Intergovernmental Coordination Committee on Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and the Common Destiny Community of Cambodia-China, in Phnom Penh yesterday.

During the meeting Namhong raised the issue of the COVID-19 vaccine and asked China to provide one as a gift to Cambodia.

Wang said the Chinese government and people would not forget Prime Minister Hun Sen’s visit in February 2020, at a time when China was experiencing a severe outbreak of COVID-19.

He said that in relation to the COVID-19 vaccine, China will provide the vaccine to developing countries, especially Cambodia, an ironclad friend.

Wang also praised Cambodia for successfully controlling the spread of COVID-19.

China has also made significant contributions to the Kingdom’s health sector, such as providing medical equipment, ambulances and training of Cambodian health officials.

Minister of Health Mam Bun Heng has said that since early last year, China has provided 40 mobile clinics, 200 ambulances and 200 ecological machines to the health sector.

In addition to these grants, China has also provided assistance for the construction of a large hospital in Tboung Khmum province at a cost of more than $45 million and the Preah Kosamak Hospital at a cost of approximately $82 million. The construction of these two hospitals is a necessary response to provide health services to the people of Cambodia.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has promised that the vaccine developed by China will be widely distributed to the world. And in recent months, Beijing has sent a positive signal that it has decided to participate in the World Health Organization’s COVAX programme.

Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong welcomes Minister of Foreign Affairs Wang Yi to their meeting at a hotel in Phnom Penh. KT/Khem Sovannara

To date, the COVAX programme, under the auspices of WHO and the international alliances of GAVI and CEPI, has nine vaccines under development and nine others are under evaluation. It also aims to produce two billion doses of a COVID-19 vaccine by 2021.

Last month, Mr Hun Sen asked Russia to provide a COVID-19 vaccine to Cambodia in a move to stem its spread of COVID-19 across the country.

The request was made during a meeting between Mr Hun Sen and Anatoly Borovik, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation to Cambodia.

Mr Hun Sen said Cambodia congratulates Russia on its discovery of a COVID-19 vaccine.

He added the discovery of COVID-19 vaccines could help the world fight the disease, which is causing a number of challenges, including socio-economic ones.

Rafael Iangareev, Russian Embassy press attaché in Phnom Penh, had told Khmer Times that the embassy notified the relevant Russian authorities about the interest of the Kingdom in the vaccine. Now the diplomatic mission is waiting for a response.

Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine had said that it’s good that the Prime Minister is asking for a vaccine from Russia, which is a friend. She said such requests can be made because this is in Cambodia’s interest, and the provision of the vaccine is not immediately available.

Although some countries have done so, Vandine has said that Cambodia has not ordered or booked the vaccine, but Cambodia is a member of the International Vaccine Alliance. Thus, if there is an official announcement that a vaccine can be used, Cambodia can buy or accept the vaccine.

She added Cambodia cannot buy the first batch of vaccine for all Cambodians because the production will initially be limited.

Vandine said that Cambodia had not yet decided on whether to purchase any available vaccine to protect senior government officials or the frontline medical staff first.

Vandine said that even when there is a vaccine it would not be enough for everyone in the world. She added that despite having one, the Ministry of Health and the WHO still require people to take precautionary measures against the virus.

WHO has announced that the allocation of vaccines, once licensed and approved, will be guided by its Allocation Framework which follows a 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 on Immunization (SAGE), which has recently released a Values Framework laying the groundwork for subsequent guidance 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.”

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