The vaccine will be provided by the COVAX Facility a partnership between the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF, and the World Health Organisation.
The new shipment will expedite the rollout of the vaccination programme and bolster the government’s aim to vaccinate 50 percent of the population by the end of this year.
“People should not worry about a vaccine shortage,” Director General of the Department of Communicable Diseases Control, Dr Rattanaxay Phetsouvanh, told a press conference on Friday.
“The government is working very hard to procure and deliver more vaccines to the whole population. I want to assure you that all of the vaccines available in Laos are safe and equally effective.”
“Due to the smaller number of AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines provided, priority will be given to people aged over 60 and those who have underlying health issues,” Dr Rattanaxay said.
So far, Laos has received more than 2.13 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines, with China’s Sinopharm vaccine comprising about 90 percent. Other types include AstraZeneca (132,000 doses), Pfizer (100,620 doses) and Sputnik V (1,000 doses).
As of June 15, more than 719,560 people had received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while 414,785 people had been given a second dose.
In Vientiane where community outbreaks have occurred, over 260,000 people have received the first shot. Authorities plan to vaccinate 80 percent of people living in the capital to create herd immunity and cut the chain of infection.
Last week, Laos received 500,000 doses of Covid-19 vaccine, provided by Chinese government. The vaccine produced by Sinopharm (China National Pharmaceutical Group Co., Ltd.) is being given to people aged 18-60.
Director General of the Department of Hygiene and Health Promotion, Dr Phonepaseuth Ounaphom, told Vientiane Times that one of the main challenges to the government’s plan is obtaining vaccine quickly and in insufficient quantities.
“At present, we are helping private companies to buy vaccine from China. Negotiations are underway,” he said. “More factories and companies want to buy vaccine from their home countries and we are collaborating with UNICEF to help them with procurement and delivery. But I have no idea when those vaccines will arrive in Laos.” Last week, the rollout of vaccinations has not been well organised and there were numerous reports of crowded vaccination centres. Many people did not stand in line and ignored the social distancing rules, increasing the risk of virus transmission.
Consequently, village and other authorities have been told to improve the way in which vaccinations are delivered and limit the number of people who can be immunised each day. - Vientiane Times/ANN