Cambodia may miss out on first batch of Russian Covid-19 vaccine

Russian coronavirus vaccine. © Mikhail Djaparidze/TASS. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

PHNOM PENH, Sep 30, 2020, Khmer Times. Russia has received international requests for 1 billion doses of its new vaccine, meaning Cambodia may find itself falling behind unless there is political goodwill, according to Khmer Times sources.

With mass production expected to begin in September, Russia – which has registered almost one million cases of COVID-19 itself – said that it would be able to provide 500 million doses of Sputnik V per year.

On Aug 11, 2020, Russia became the first country in the world to approve a vaccine against the virus, which was developed by the Gamaleya National Center of Epidemiology and Microbiology.

Prime Minister Hun Sen earlier last week requested Russia provide COVID-19 vaccines to Cambodia in a move to stem the spread of the virus across the country. The request was made during a meeting between Mr Hun Sen and Russian Ambassador to Cambodia Anatoly Borovik.

Large-scale clinical trials of the vaccine, involving over 40,000 people, were scheduled to begin in Russia in the last week of August with “a number of countries, such as United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and possibly India or Brazil, will join the clinical trials of Sputnik V”, according to the official website.

Countries all over the world have preordered millions of doses of other prospective COVID-19 vaccines, with the rollout contingent on the results of phase 3 studies.

Khmer Times learned from sources in Moscow that though Cambodia may likely miss out on Sputnik V due to the large volumes of pre-orders, Cambodia stands a good chance of getting the second vaccine installment.

Press-Secretary of Russian Embassy in Phnom Penh, Rafael Iangareev, told Khmer Times yesterday that during the meeting between Borovik and Mr Hun Sen, the supply of the Russian developed vaccine was touched upon.

“Our embassy has notified the relevant Russian authorities about the interests of Cambodia regarding the vaccine and are now waiting for the response. The situation will be clarified when we have that response,” he said.

Ministry of Health spokeswoman Or Vandine, recently had told Khmer Times that Cambodia did not order or book the vaccine, but Cambodia is a member of the International Vaccine Alliance. Thus, if there is an official announcement that the vaccine can be used then Cambodia can also buy or accept the vaccine.

She said the Secretary-General of the WHO has always called for the distribution of vaccines to be fair between countries, avoiding selfishness or prejudice against any country.”

Meanwhile, a Chinese man who flew from the Philippines via South Korea on September 27 tested positive yesterday for COVID-19, bringing the total number of infections in the country to 277 and recoveries to 275.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Health Ministry said a Chinese man, aged 28, tested positive for COVID-19 twice. The man is now receiving medical treatment at the Chak Angre Krom Health Centre in the capital.

The 101 other passengers who were on board the same flight are now being closely monitored as they continue their 14-day mandatory quarantine. With 49 of the group quarantined in a hotel in the capital and the other 52 placed in Pochentong Secondary School.

The 102 passengers included 55 Cambodians, 23 Chinese, 11 Japanese, eight Koreans, two Americans, one Myanmar, one Iranian and one Briton.

In other news, the 139 Cambodian peacekeepers who returned from Mali earlier this month were cleared of COVID-19 yesterday after undergoing 14-day mandatory quarantine, director-general of the National Centre for Peacekeeping Forces (NCPF) General Sem Sovanny said.

The returning Blue Helmets first set foot on home soil September 13, after completing a one-year UN mission in the African nation.

Forty-five of the returnees had been quarantined at the peacekeeping forces training institute since they returned, with the other 94 placed at the training school for multinational peacekeeping forces, both located in Kampong Speu province

“They were allowed to return home today [yesterday] to be reunited with their families,” Gen Sovanny said.

He added that both centres had taken care of their health, food and their hygiene for the duration of their quarantine.

The designated NCPF quarantine centres can house up to 247 peacekeepers between them.

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