On Monday, during his meeting with Indian Ambassador to Cambodia Dr Devyani Uttam Khobragade, Prime Minister Hun Sen asked the Indian government to donate vaccines to Cambodia following India’s initial success in its drive to vaccinate its huge population. Khmer Times is honoured to have an exclusive interview with Ambassador Khobragade, during which she discusses the Premier’s request and the commitment of her country – as the “pharma capital of the world” – to helping Cambodia and other developing countries overcome the deadly coronavirus.
KT: Now that Prime Minister Hun Sen has asked the Indian government to provide vaccines to Cambodia, how will you respond to the request?
Ambassador Khobragade: I have transmitted the message to the government of India. The government of India has received several requests for the supply of Indian manufactured vaccines from neighbouring and key partner countries. In response to these requests, and in keeping with India’s stated commitment to use India’s vaccine production and delivery capacity to help all of humanity fight the COVID-19 pandemic, supplies under grant assistance to Bhutan, the Maldives, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar and the Seychelles will begin from January 20 (the interview was conducted earlier). In respect of Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Mauritius, we are awaiting their confirmation of necessary regulatory clearances. Given the strong relationship with Cambodia and respect that leadership has for Prime Minister Samdech Hun Sen, I am sure that the government of India will consider the request positively.
KT: If the Indian government agrees to provide vaccines to Cambodia, when do you think the Indian government will deliver them?
Ambassador Khobragade: Keeping in view the domestic requirements of the phased rollout, India will continue to supply COVID-19 vaccines to partner countries over the coming weeks and months in a phased manner. It will be ensured that domestic manufacturers will have adequate stock to meet domestic requirements while supplying abroad.
KT: Over the weekend, India started one of the world’s biggest vaccination programmes. How has the programme been so far? Is there any lesson that the Cambodian government can learn from the Indian government regarding this issue?
Ambassador Khobragade: Yes, it is a challenge to inoculate a huge population. But India is well prepared for it. India has also provided training to several neighbouring countries to enhance and strengthen their clinical capabilities, under the Partnerships for Accelerating Clinical Trials (Pact) programme.
KT: So far, the Indian government has approved Covaxin and Covashield vaccines for its people. Has the Indian government run into any challenges such as major side effects during the vaccination campaign?
Ambassador Khobragade: As of 7am [Wednesday), 674,835 healthcare workers have received a COVID-19 vaccination. In the last 24 hours, 220,786 people were vaccinated across 3,860 sessions. There have been no major challenges so far. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, India is educating people to take the vaccine.
KT: Do you have any message that you would like to send to our readers?
Ambassador Khobragade: India reaffirmed its position as the pharma capital of the world amid the COVID-19 pandemic last year sending HCQ and paracetamol to 150 countries. When it comes to COVID-19 vaccines, India has assured that its vaccines will be for the entire humanity, with priority being given to neighbours and key partners of India.