Updated: November 03, 2021 06:46 AM GMT
A girl receives a dose of the Sinovac Covid-19 vaccine at a health center in Phnom Penh on Nov. 1 as Cambodia began vaccinating children aged five and older. (Photo: AFP)
Prime Minister Hun Sen has announced that all Cambodians will receive a fourth dose of vaccine against Covid-19 with the support of development partners.
“We know that we have a limited budget for the fourth dose, but the government may reduce other expenses to buy the vaccine. The government will not [go] bankrupt at any cost,” he said.
The government’s budget was limited but support from the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank would help fund the inoculations, he added.
Hun Sen questioned Australia’s commitment to delivering two million doses of the Pfizer vaccine as promised earlier this year.
“Australia had promised to donate the Pfizer vaccines and this was long overdue but if there is uncertainty about getting it, then our next decision is to buy the [Chinese-made] Sinovac vaccines,” the prime minister told a televised press conference.
Vongsey Vissoth, secretary of state for the Ministry of Economy, has been directed to check on the vaccines with the Australian embassy in Phnom Penh.
Australia is not selling vaccines but has committed to share 60 million doses with countries in Southeast Asia and the Pacific by the end of 2022
If Australia appeared unsure of keeping its pledge, Hun Sen said he will acquire three million doses of Sinovac.
“I am aware that the vaccines we have now will not be enough to vaccinate the targeted population including the consideration of vaccinating those three years and above in the near future,” the prime minister said.
An Australian embassy spokesman in Phnom Penh told the government-friendly Khmer Times that the promised vaccines will come from Australia’s domestic supply or via procurement and would be assessed for safety, quality and effectiveness before distribution.
“Australia is not selling vaccines but has committed to share 60 million doses with countries in Southeast Asia and the Pacific by the end of 2022,” the spokesperson was quoted as saying.
“While commercial negotiations are underway, we are not in a position to confirm with the manufacturer of any vaccines to be provided through procurement arrangements with UNICEF, or the timing of deliveries.”
Backed by China, Cambodia has been widely praised for a swift and successful rollout of its vaccination program. The Southeast Asian country has achieved herd immunity with its citizens receiving their third shot and children as young as three are being currently inoculated.
Hun Sen ended months of lockdowns, severe travel restrictions and harsh health curbs imposed on businesses and government institutions when he declared his country fully open on Nov. 1.
Cambodia has donated 400,000 Covid-19 Sinovac doses to its neighbors Vietnam and Laos, which have struggled with their own vaccination programs amid surging caseloads in recent weeks.
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