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No vaccine plan: Ministry of Health unsure on when or from where the Kingdom will get doses

Khann Chanvirak / Khmer Times Share:
Staff members transfer the first batch of the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine at Cairo International Airport, Egypt, December 10, 2020. Egypt received the first batch of the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine late on Thursday. Xinhua

The Health Ministry has still not come up with a plan of action to pre-order COVID-19 vaccines although countries around the world have already done so.

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This is despite the fact that Prime Minister Hun Sen last Monday ordered officials from the ministries of Health and Finance to urgently meet and discuss the sourcing and funding of a vaccine.

The following day, officials from both ministries met on the matter and after three days have still not announced a decision.

Health Ministry spokeswoman Or Vandine said yesterday that the officials are still working to monitor the effectiveness of vaccines before ordering any.

“The team is working on this, we are not silent, we are working,” she said. “We are also working with WHO under the Covax initiative to ensure that Cambodia also has access to the COVID-19 vaccine when it is safe and approved by the World Health Organization.”

Britain has already begun vaccinating some of its citizens while the United States has deployed truckloads of vaccines across the country for the purpose.

On Saturday, the Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Cambodia, Wang Wentian, posted in his Facebook that the Chinese Embassy is now in contact with the Cambodian government, for possible use of China-made COVID-19 vaccines in the Kingdom.

“While there are several options, the Chinese vaccine is outstanding because of its safety (using the traditional method of inactivation), effectiveness (86 percent when 75 percent is average for similar vaccines) and convenience (can be stored and transported at temperature 2-8 ℃),” he added.

Yesterday, Wang could not be reached for comment about how many doses of COVID-19 vaccine that China will provide to Cambodia.

Vandine said that she does not yet know when Cambodia will receive the COVID-19 vaccine from China and for how many doses.

“I do not have this information,” she said.

Recently a Chinese Embassy official outlined to local media the Chinese government’s position: “Once a vaccine developed by China is approved for distribution in the market, it will always be a priority for Cambodia and this position will not change.”

Last week, Mr Hun Sen announced a plan to purchase 20 million doses of vaccine for 10 million Cambodians (two doses per person) to be inoculated for free. For the first step, he plans to buy one million doses of vaccine for 500,000 Cambodians.

 

As of Friday, the government has raised more than $45 million from donors for the purpose.

On another matter, Vandine said that unlike a Western country, Cambodia will not reduce the 14-day quarantine period for inbound travellers.

Passengers wait for virus testing at the Phnom Penh International Airport. Fresh News

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reported to have said on Wednesday that it is shortening the recommended quarantine period from 14 days after a person has been exposed to the coronavirus, offering two alternatives.

The first alternative is to end quarantine after 10 days if no symptoms are reported, Dr Henry Walke, the CDC’s COVID-19 incident manager, reportedly said. The second option is to end quarantine after seven days if an individual tests negative and also reports no symptoms.

Vandine said Cambodia must maintain the 14-day quarantine requirement because the ministry has found people testing positive on the 13th day of their quarantine.

“If we reduce the number of days of quarantine and people become infected on the 13th day, then when the patients walk out they will spread the virus throughout the community,” she said.

“Even the World Health Organization has not changed its 14-day quarantine policy,” she said. “France used to have quarantine for a week, but then the disease spread again.”

In related news, the Health Ministry announced yesterday that it has found two new imported cases in the Kingdom, raising the tally to 359.

In a press statement, it said the cases are a 47-year-old Jordanian man, residing in Phnom Penh, who flew in from Jordan via South Korea on Thursday. He tested positive for the virus on Saturday.

The patient is currently being treated at the National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control which is now being used to treat COVID-19 patients.

The 76 passengers who flew in with him tested negative and were placed in a 14-day quarantine at two hotels in Phnom Penh.

The other case was a 32-year-old Cambodian man, residing in Phnom Penh, who flew in from Mali via South Korea on Friday. He tested positive for COVID-19. He is also being treated at the National Center for Tuberculosis and Leprosy Control.

Sixty-two passengers with him tested negative for COVID-19 and are being quarantined for 14 days at two hotels in Phnom Penh.

Meanwhile a total of 8,814 people have had samples taken during a third round of tests in relation to the “November 28 community incident” on Saturday. Of them, 3,002 tested negative for COVID-19 and the remaining samples are still being analysed.

To date, a total of 359 cases (84 females and 275 males) have been detected, of which 307 people have recovered and 52 people are currently hospitalised. The cases include 239 Cambodians, 45 French, 18 Chinese, 13 Malaysians, 12 Americans, nine Indonesians, six Britons, three Vietnamese, three Canadians, three Indians, two Hungarians, two Pakistanis, one Belgian, one Kazakhstani, one Pole and one Jordanian.

Of these, 40 are from the “November 28 community incident”.

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