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Cambodia among first countries to receive COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX Facility

On 2 March, 324,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine licensed to Serum Institute of India (SII) arrived at Phnom Penh International Airport, their first stop before being given to priority groups, including those at high risk of exposure to the coronavirus and those who are most vulnerable to developing severe illness from COVID-19. These additional COVID-19 vaccines will provide the Royal Government of Cambodia (RGC) with another powerful tool in its ongoing efforts to combat COVID-19.

However, vaccines alone will not end the pandemic. Ongoing public health measures to prevent transmission will still be needed alongside vaccination, including adhering to testing and quarantine measures, mask wearing, hand hygiene and physical distancing.

These 324,000 doses are the first of a total of 1.1 million doses that are expected to be provided in batches by the COVAX Facility by the end of May. Cambodia is expected to receive doses for 20% of the total population (an estimated 7 million doses) from COVAX, with further batches continuing to arrive throughout the year. The COVAX Facility is an unprecedented global effort to provide every country in the world with equitable access to safe COVID-19 vaccines as rapidly as possible. COVAX is led by Gavi, CEPI and the World Health Organization (WHO) in partnership with UNICEF. Cambodia is among the first countries in the Western Pacific Region to receive vaccines from COVAX.

Given the limited global supply of vaccines, the RGC is in the process of procuring, through numerous means, vaccines which have met its regulatory safety standards as quickly as possible to protect its citizens. Vaccines were first administered on 10 February, and to date more than 65,000 people have been vaccinated. The arrival of these additional vaccine doses will be a significant further step towards achieving the RGC’s goal of vaccinating 10 million people.

His Excellency Professor Mam Bunheng, Minister of Health, said, “The Cambodian government’s priority in the early stages of this vaccination roll-out is to save lives by protecting frontline health workers, those at high risk of COVID-19 exposure or those who are likely to develop serious illness due to COVID-19. This is the best approach to maximising the impact of the limited supply of vaccines available in the initial phase. Not only will vaccines help save lives, they will help to drive the country’s economic recovery.”

His Excellency the Minister of Health also said, “I urge everyone to continue to follow Samdech Akka Moha Sena Padei Techo Hun Sen, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia’s guidance on the 3 dos and don’ts. The 3 dos are to wear a mask, wash hands regularly, and maintain physical distancing of 1.5 metres. The 3 don’ts are to avoid confined and enclosed spaces, avoid crowded spaces, and avoid touching each other. Stay home if you have a fever or suspect COVID-19 and immediately seek medical assistance or call the 115 hotline.”

As per Cambodia’s National Deployment and Vaccination Plan (NDVP), priority groups include health workers, and essential workers involved in the vaccination roll-out effort, elderly populations and adults with co-morbidities. As supply of vaccines will be limited due to high global demand, vaccination of these priority groups will happen in a gradual and phased manner. The RGC will communicate to the population to keep them updated so that priority groups have the latest information about how, when and where they can access vaccines when it is their turn.

The development of effective and safe vaccines in less than a year after the emergence of a new virus is one of modern medicine’s greatest success stories. The vaccines that will be used in Cambodia have gone through rigorous development and safety testing procedures, where the RGC has assessed the evidence, benefits and risks. The AstraZeneca vaccine licensed to SII provided through COVAX was authorised for emergency use by the Ministry of Health on 22 February, after being listed for emergency use by WHO on 15 February.

“WHO is working closely with Gavi, CEPI and UNICEF to ensure fair and equitable access to vaccines. We’re proud to play our part in this milestone moment,” said Dr Li Ailan, WHO Representative to Cambodia. “In addition to public health measures, COVID-19 vaccines are a critical new tool to protect people from serious disease, to prevent the health system from being overwhelmed, and to save lives.”

In addition to collaborating on the delivery of the vaccines through COVAX, the RGC has worked closely with WHO and UNICEF on its broader COVID-19 vaccination readiness and roll-out.

Foroogh Foyouzat, UNICEF’s Representative in Cambodia, said, “UNICEF is proud of our long history of collaborating with the Ministry of Health and WHO on immunisation in Cambodia. This new vaccine is a pivotal moment in turning the tide on this pandemic. As health workers and other front-line staff receive vaccines, we will be able to gradually see a return to the new normal, including better access to health, education and protection services. In the spirit of universal health coverage, let’s leave no one behind.”

Based on the current evidence, we know that COVID-19 vaccines can protect individuals from severe disease and reduce hospitalizations. Even once people have been vaccinated, they should continue to follow proven preventive measures. We must all do our part to use all the tools available to us to overcome this pandemic.

For any inquires please contact:

H.E. Dr Sung Vinntak
Advisor to the Ministry of Health, Director of DIC
+855 77 93 95 98

Mr Ork Vichit
Deputy Director of National Maternal and Child Health Center and Manager of National Immunization Program
+855 12 830 548

Allison Smith
Communication Officer, WHO Cambodia
+855 12 760894
[email protected]

Bunly Meas
Communication Specialist, UNICEF Cambodia
+855 23 260204 ext 435
[email protected]

Notes to Editors

List of donor pledges to the Gavi COVAX AMC is available here.

About COVAX

COVAX, the vaccines pillar of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, is co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organization (WHO) – working in partnership with developed and developing country vaccine manufacturers, UNICEF, the World Bank, and others. It is the only global initiative that is working with governments and manufacturers to ensure COVID-19 vaccines are available worldwide to both higher-income and lower-income countries.

CEPI is focused on the COVAX vaccine research and development portfolio: investing in R&D across a variety of promising candidates, with the goal to support development of three safe and effective vaccines which can be made available to countries participating in the COVAX Facility. As part of this work, CEPI has secured first right of refusal to potentially over one billion doses for the COVAX Facility to a number of candidates, and made strategic investments in vaccine manufacturing, which includes reserving capacity to manufacture doses of COVAX vaccines at a network of facilities, and securing glass vials to hold 2 billion doses of vaccine. CEPI is also investing in the ‘next generation’ of vaccine candidates, which will give the world additional options to control COVID-19 in the future.

Gavi is focused on procurement and delivery for COVAX: coordinating the design, implementation and administration of the COVAX Facility and the Gavi COVAX AMC and working with its Alliance partners UNICEF and WHO, along with governments, on country readiness and delivery. The COVAX Facility is the global pooled procurement mechanism for COVID-19 vaccines through which COVAX will ensure fair and equitable access to vaccines for all 190 participating economies, using an allocation framework formulated by WHO. The COVAX Facility will do this by pooling buying power from participating economies and providing volume guarantees across a range of promising vaccine candidates. The Gavi COVAX AMC is the financing mechanism that will support the participation of 92 low- and middle-income countries in the Facility, enabling access to donor-funded doses of safe and effective vaccines. Gavi is fundraising for the COVAX AMC, and funding UNICEF procurement of vaccines as well as partners’ and governments work on readiness and delivery, including support cold chain equipment, technical assistance, syringes, vehicles, and other aspects of the vastly complex logistical operation for delivery. UNICEF and the Pan-American Health Organisation (PAHO) will be acting as procurement coordinators for the COVAX Facility, helping deliver vaccines to COVAX AMC participants and others.

WHO has multiple roles within COVAX: It provides normative guidance on vaccine policy, regulation, safety, R&D, allocation, and country readiness and delivery. Its Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) on Immunization develops evidence-based immunization policy recommendations. Its Emergency Use Listing (EUL)/prequalification programmes ensure harmonized review and authorization across member states. It provides global coordination and member state support on vaccine safety monitoring. It developed the target product profiles for COVID-19 vaccines and provides R&D technical coordination. WHO leads, along with UNICEF, the support to countries as they prepare to receive and administer vaccines. The Country Readiness and Delivery (CRD) workstream includes Gavi and numerous other partners working at the global, regional, and country-level to provide tools, guidance, monitoring, and on the ground technical assistance for the planning and roll-out of the vaccines. Along with COVAX partners, WHO is also developing a no-fault compensation scheme as part of the time-limited indemnification and liability commitments.

UNICEF is leveraging its experience as the largest single vaccine buyer in the world and working with manufacturers and partners on the procurement of COVID-19 vaccine doses, as well as freight, logistics and storage. UNICEF already procures more than 2 billion doses of vaccines annually for routine immunization and outbreak response on behalf of nearly 100 countries. In collaboration with the PAHO Revolving Fund, UNICEF is leading efforts to procure and supply doses of COVID-19 vaccines for COVAX. In addition, UNICEF, Gavi and WHO are working with governments around the clock to ensure that countries are ready to receive the vaccines, with appropriate cold chain equipment in place and health workers trained to dispense them. UNICEF is also playing a lead role in efforts to foster trust in vaccines, delivering vaccine confidence communications and tracking and addressing misinformation around the world.

About CEPI

CEPI is an innovative partnership between public, private, philanthropic, and civil organisations, launched at Davos in 2017, to develop vaccines to stop future epidemics. CEPI has moved with great urgency and in coordination with WHO in response to the emergence of COVID-19. CEPI has initiated ten partnerships to develop vaccines against the novel coronavirus. The programmes are leveraging rapid response platforms already supported by CEPI as well as new partnerships.

Before the emergence of COVID-19, CEPI’s priority diseases included Ebola virus, Lassa virus, Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus, Nipah virus, Rift Valley Fever and Chikungunya virus. CEPI also invested in platform technologies that can be used for rapid vaccine and immunoprophylactic development against unknown pathogens (Disease X).

About Gavi

Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance is a public-private partnership that helps vaccinate half the world’s children against some of the world’s deadliest diseases. Since its inception in 2000, Gavi has helped to immunise a whole generation – over 822 million children – and prevented more than 14 million deaths, helping to halve child mortality in 73 developing countries. Gavi also plays a key role in improving global health security by supporting health systems as well as funding global stockpiles for Ebola, cholera, meningitis and yellow fever vaccines. After two decades of progress, Gavi is now focused on protecting the next generation and reaching the unvaccinated children still being left behind, employing innovative finance and the latest technology – from drones to biometrics – to save millions more lives, prevent outbreaks before they can spread and help countries on the road to self-sufficiency. Learn more at www.gavi.org and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

The Vaccine Alliance brings together developing country and donor governments, the World Health Organization, UNICEF, the World Bank, the vaccine industry, technical agencies, civil society, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other private sector partners. View the full list of donor governments and other leading organizations that fund Gavi’s work here.

About WHO

The World Health Organization provides global leadership in public health within the United Nations system. Founded in 1948, WHO works with 194 Member States, across six regions and from more than 150 offices, to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable. Our goal for 2019-2023 is to ensure that a billion more people have universal health coverage, to protect a billion more people from health emergencies, and provide a further billion people with better health and wellbeing.

For updates on COVID-19 and public health advice to protect yourself from coronavirus, visit www.who.int and follow WHO on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, TikTok, Pinterest, Snapchat, YouTube

About UNICEF

UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone. For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org. For more information about COVID-19, visit www.unicef.org/coronavirus. Find out more about UNICEF’s work on the COVID-19 vaccines here, or about UNICEF’s work on immunization here.

Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook.

About the ACT-Accelerator

The Access to COVID-19 Tools ACT-Accelerator, is a new, ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate the development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines. It was set up in response to a call from G20 leaders in March and launched by the WHO, European Commission, France and The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in April 2020.

The ACT-Accelerator is not a decision-making body or a new organisation, but works to speed up collaborative efforts among existing organisations to end the pandemic. It is a framework for collaboration that has been designed to bring key players around the table with the goal of ending the pandemic as quickly as possible through the accelerated development, equitable allocation, and scaled up delivery of tests, treatments and vaccines, thereby protecting health systems and restoring societies and economies in the near term. It draws on the experience of leading global health organisations which are tackling the world’s toughest health challenges, and who, by working together, are able to unlock new and more ambitious results against COVID-19. Its members share a commitment to ensure all people have access to all the tools needed to defeat COVID-19 and to work with unprecedented levels of partnership to achieve it.

The ACT-Accelerator has four areas of work: diagnostics, therapeutics, vaccines and the health system connector. Cross-cutting all of these is the workstream on Access & Allocation.