The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $95 million loan to the government. The funds will be used to vaccinate Cambodians against Covid-19 from 2022 to 2023, and will include annual booster shots for those already vaccinated and first doses for children under 5.

In a February 15 press release, ADB said Cambodia had largely been successful in controlling the spread of the virus in 2020, but that an outbreak in 2021 had severely stressed the healthcare system and resulted in widespread closures of schools and businesses for most of the year.

The press release said Cambodia had fully vaccinated 80 per cent of its estimated population of 16.7 million since launching its national vaccination campaign on February 10 last year. More than one in five people, or 21.8 per cent, had received booster shots. Still, the country’s health system

remained vulnerable to a surge in new infections linked to variants such as Delta and Omicron.

ADB senior social sector specialist Rikard Elfving said the project will help Cambodia save lives by reducing the number of severe cases and will accelerate the country’s economic recovery from the pandemic.

“ADB will also provide $1 million in technical assistance to help Cambodia boost the effectiveness of its logistics and supply-management systems and reduce access barriers among women, girls, children, and hard-to-reach populations,” he added.

The press release said that in addition to the Asia Pacific Vaccine Access Facility loan, ADB will help administer a $50 million loan from the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The loans will jointly finance the procurement of up to 14.5 million doses of vaccines and support-related logistics.

“The project builds on ADB’s earlier Covid-19-related assistance to Cambodia. On July 8, 2020, ADB provided a $250 million loan to help the government mitigate the severe health, social and economic impacts of the pandemic. In addition, ADB provided about 1.7 million units of personal protective equipment to Cambodia in 2021,” the press release said.

Since 2005, ADB has supported the Ministry of Health’s regional communicable disease control projects. In October 2021, it approved $30 million in additional financing for the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) Health Security Project to strengthen Cambodia’s health system amid a surge in Covid-19 cases.

In early February, Prime Minister Hun Sen requested that the health ministry and all relevant institutions continue to ramp up efforts to administer third shots to all those who were eligible. He also called on the unvaccinated to come forward and get inoculated as soon as possible to boost herd immunity.

Hun Sen said the government had worked hard to prevent further deaths due to Covid-19, and would do everything in its power to ensure the Kingdom would not run short of vaccines in the future, as the fight against the virus was far from over.