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Australia, Ministry of Health, WHO and UNICEF observe the roll out of COVID-19 vaccination in Vientiane

April 1, a delegation consisting of the Deputy Minister of Health, Dr. Sanong Thongsana, the Australian Ambassador to ASEAN Will Nankervis, the Australian Deputy Head of Mission Dan Heldon, UNICEF Representative a.i. to the Lao PDR Beate Dastel and representatives from WHO paid a joint visit to a mass vaccination site in Vientiane, to observe the ongoing rollout of Australian-supported COVID-19 vaccines.

During the visit, the delegation had the opportunity to observe the Lao PDR’s vaccination delivery system, including the provision of vaccination services.

The Government of Australia has been among the key supporters to the country’s COVID-19 vaccination rollout. This joint visit follows Australia’s bilateral donation of 905,580 doses of COVID-19 Pfizer BioNTech vaccines to the Lao PDR in January 2022, which was delivered with the support of UNICEF, alongside an earlier donation of 100,000 doses of AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines. These vaccines form part of an AUD22 million (USD15.6m) package of COVID-19 support, which also includes technical assistance, risk communication, training and medical equipment.

“The Government of the Lao PDR would like to once again extend our sincerest thanks to the Government of Australia. We highly value this contribution made by Australia to the Lao PDR’s ongoing efforts to vaccinate the population against COVID-19, especially as more cases are being reported daily,” remarked Deputy Minister of Health, Dr. Sanong Thongsana.

The Pfizer BioNTech vaccines from Australia have been prioritised for people aged 60 years and above, health care workers, those with underlying health conditions, as well as adolescents aged 12 to 17 years as part of the Government of the Lao PDR’s efforts to ensure the safety of children as they return to school.

The AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines provided by Australia have been used to provide protection to other priority groups according to the National Deployment and Vaccination Plan.

“Australia expresses our solidarity with the Government and people of the Lao PDR during these difficult times. Our support to the Lao PDR is motivated by our firm belief that no one is safe until everyone is safe. Australia is strongly committed to supporting ASEAN and its members to address the health impacts of the pandemic and support economic recovery. This is demonstrated through our support to the ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund, the ASEAN Centre for Public Health Emergencies and Emerging Diseases, and to COVAX,” said the Australian Ambassador to ASEAN Will Nankervis.

“As we enter the third year of the pandemic and the threat of the Omicron variant looms large over the Lao PDR, it is vital that those who are eligible, particularly those who are the most vulnerable, receive their recommended doses of COVID-19 vaccination. I am very glad to see that the Lao PDR has been making steady progress in its COVID-19 vaccination rollout,” stated the Australian Deputy Head of Mission, Dan Heldon.

With the rising cases of Omicron in the Lao PDR, the Ministry of Health has announced the rollout of an additional fourth dose of COVID-19 vaccination to those with elevated risk of severe illness from COVID-19, including people with immunodeficiency or chronic disease, people aged 60 years and above and frontline health workers, followed by other priority groups.

As of March 24, 2022, approximately 76 per cent of the total population in Laos have received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccination, with approximately 61 per cent having already received double doses and 16 per cent receiving booster doses.

“UNICEF and WHO continue to work closely with the Ministry of Health and our donors to ensure that COVID-19 vaccination is accessible for everyone in the Lao PDR. Not only are these vaccines helping to save more lives, but they are also critical in helping us address the learning crisis and prevent further disruption to children’s education. I encourage everyone who is eligible to please get vaccinated when you are able to do so,” said UNICEF Representative a.i. to the Lao PDR Beate Dastel.

Source: Lao News Agency