VIENTIANE (Vientiane Times/ANN): Unicef has committed continuous support to the Lao government’s vaccination programme against Covid-19, the agency’s representative to Laos has said.
Dr Pia Rebello Britto gave an exclusive interview to Vientiane Times recently, saying that Uniecef has committed further support to vaccination against Covid-19, similar to the health and vaccination support it has extended for childhood vaccination over the past three decades.
“It’s been now over 30 years that Unicef has been supporting the government with vaccination. Before with childhood routine immunisation or childhood vaccination and now we bring that same support and same technical expertise to roll out the Covid-19 vaccines,” Dr Britto said during an interview conducted online.
She added that Unicef is committed to support the Lao government in its efforts to promote and protect the rights of all children and to ensure quality and equity in healthcare for all Lao people.
With specific attention to health and vaccines, for over 30 years Unicef has been supporting the government in routine immunisation for children with life-saving vaccines to prevent death and promote their well-being, as a cost-effective high impact intervention, and thereby making a significant contribution to the public health of the Lao people and the country.
Unicef plays a major role in procuring Covid-19 vaccines for Laos as the organisation is part of the Covax facility - a partnership co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organisation (WHO), with Unicef as key delivery partner which aims at ensuring equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines.
In this regard, some 1,008,000 doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine donated by the United States government through the Covax facility was officially handed over to the Lao government on Monday.
“I would like to thank the United States of America, particularly the US Embassy in Laos and USAID, for their generous contribution. Equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines represents the clearest pathway out of this pandemic for all of us, children included,” the Unicef representative said.
Laos previously received 132,000 doses of the Astra Zeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine in March this year and a shipment of 100,620 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine in early June, both of which were procured through the Covax facility.
In addition to procuring Covid-19 vaccines, Unicef has provided support to the Lao government in procuring medical equipment to strengthen Laos’ cold chain storage capacity, including installation of five walk-in cold rooms and 157 medical refrigerators for storing Covid-19 vaccines with the financial support of several development partners.
In connection with this, Unicef is also supporting the Ministry of Health to promote Covid-19 vaccination and its safety and effectiveness and carrying out community engagement activities to increase vaccination uptake.
In association with the Centre of Information and Education for Health and with support from WHO, USAID and DFAT, Unicef has launched a nationwide campaign #VaccinateLaos.
The campaign was launched to align with the vaccination rollout and aims to build trust in the safety and effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines. It also reiterates the importance of following appropriate measures that protect from Covid infection, like hand washing, wearing a mask, and maintaining physical distance.
In view of the current situation, with the US Government-donated vaccines, and others that have been confirmed from other donors and through the Covax Facility, Dr Britto was optimistic that the target set by the Lao government to vaccinate 50 per cent of the population by the end of this year is likely ‘achievable’.
Although there is a global challenge concerning vaccine shortage, given the government and development partners’ commitment with incoming donations for Laos, Unicef is of the view that the country will be able to overcome the challenges and achieve the target.
“There is a strong likelihood we might be able to reach the 50 per cent,” Dr Britto said.
As of July 13, a total of 1,030,461 people in Laos had received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, accounting for 14 per cent of the population. - Vientiane Times/Asia News Network