Cambodia will order one million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to inoculate close to 500,000 people, said Prime Minister Hun Sen on Tuesday, who added that the country would only purchase a vaccine approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).
In an address on National Television of Kampuchea (TVK), Hun Sen said that he could not confirm when the country would receive its first delivery of vaccines and that Cambodia would rely on the WHO’s COVAX mechanism, which would provide vaccines for 20 percent of the population.
“We are prepared via the COVAX mechanism for 20 percent and the paperwork is complete. We will buy more through COVAX... one million doses are already ordered” he said.
He said he will not conduct vaccine trials in the country and would wait for an approved WHO vaccine.
COVAX is a vaccine development program to create equitable access to treatment for COVID-19 and vaccines. The World Health Organization is also part of the COVAX facility, and Cambodia is one of 92 low-income and lower-middle-income countries supported by the facility.
In a nearly four-hour speech, Hun Sen said people should wear masks and follow other protection measures. He said Cambodia had also set aside $100 million to $200 million to meet the demand for additional vaccines and that $48 million had been raised through public donations.
According to Hun Sen, the countries that have produced and launched the vaccines include China, Russia, the United States, Britain, and Germany. He added that international recognition of any country's vaccine would take place in January.
Last week, the head of the Chinese Embassy's political affairs department, Wang Dexin, revealed that Chinese diplomats were in contact with Cambodia regarding the “possible use” of a COVID-19 vaccine developed and used by China.
However, Cambodian health officials have not commented on his announcement.
Vora Tim, executive director of The Health Action Coordinating Committee (HACC), said the WHO’S approval of a vaccine was critical for a country like Cambodia, especially when large numbers of the population have to be vaccinated.
“We need to purchase the medicine that is recognized by the World Health Organization so we can use it officially and they have the right guarantee,” he said.
"Whenever the WHO recognizes, it means that they have a lot of tests that are accurate and reliable," he added.
The World Health Organization revealed last week that the vaccines are likely to arrive in Cambodia for the first time in March 2021. However, the international organization did not specify the country of origin of the vaccines.