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Cambodia awaits US answer on Covid jabs

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Health minister Mam Bun Heng visits Preah Angduong Hospital on May 24. Facebook

Cambodia awaits US answer on Covid jabs

Cambodia is awaiting an answer from the US embassy concerning the government’s request for a donation of four million doses of Covid-19 vaccine, according to Ministry of Health secretary of state York Sambath.

Sambath said Cambodia’s overall goal is to acquire between 20 and 26 million doses to inoculate between 10 and 13 million people, or roughly 80 per cent of its population.

Since February, more than six million doses have been obtained via purchase and donation from China along with 320,000 doses provided through the World Health Organisations’ Covax initiative.

The US embassy confirmed that the request had reached US Department of State.

“The Cambodian Ministry of Health requested four million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and we delivered that request to officials in Washington,” the US embassy spokesperson Chad Roedemeier told The Post via email on May 24.

Roedemeier said the US, through its international development agency USAID, has provided more than $11 million to help Cambodia respond to the Covid-19 pandemic and bolster its efforts to prevent, detect and treat the illness.

“President [Joe] Biden has announced that the United States will provide 80 million doses of vaccines to support global needs by the end of June,” he said, adding that the US has also pledged $4 billion to the WHO’s Covax initiative – an amount of funding far exceeding that of any other country.

Stressing the US commitment to work with Covax to ensure that vaccines are delivered in an equitable manner that relies on scientific and public health data, Roedemeier also stated that “the United States will not use its vaccines to secure favours from other countries”.

Kin Phea, director of the Royal Academy of Cambodia’s International Relations Institute, said vaccines should also be provided directly to developing countries aside from the Covax initiative because the Covax mechanism was operating too slowly.

“Cambodia received more than 300,000 doses of vaccine from Covax so far, while many millions of doses have been purchased from or donated by China. In my view, we welcome all mechanisms that immediately respond to the real situation in Cambodia,” he said.

Vaccines delivery through Covax, he noted, has been slow due to the purchase by wealthy countries of more vaccines than their populations will actually require.

Separately, the health ministry will launch an emergency unit for Covid-19 patients at Preah Ang Duong Hospital in Phnom Penh by the end of this month. The unit will be able to treat over 30 Covid-19 patients who are in critical condition at the same time, according to Hok Kim Cheng, ministry’s technical director-general.

Kim Cheng told The Post that ministry officials visited the hospital on May 24 and that the emergency unit has been equipped with oxygen, ventilators and other items to give respiratory support to Covid-19 patients.

“It will start operating soon. We are in a hurry to get it done. I think it can open at the end of this month. Many more beds still have to be equipped with oxygen. We want to finish them all before admitting patients because it would be difficult to prepare the rest of the unit once Covid-19 patients arrive,” he said.

According to Kim Cheng, the ministry allows all hospitals or clinics that have the capacity and facilities that can ensure the isolation of infected patients away from their general population to treat Covid-19 patients.

He said that currently there are enough facilities for patients who are in severe condition and the ministry can prepare more facilities as needed.

On May 24 alone, the ministry reported another 556 Covid-19 infections and three new deaths, bringing the tally to 1,116 and 12 respectively in just two days.

As of May 24, Cambodia had recorded a total of 25,761 Covid-19 cases with 18,359 recoveries and 179 fatalities.

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