- General

COVID-19 vaccines shipped by COVAX facility arrive in Lao PDR

The Lao PDR received on Mar 20 its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccine doses through the COVAX facility, a partnership between the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation(WHO).

The shipment consists of 132,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII), and was shipped by air to the Wattay International Airport in Vientiane from Pune, India. This batch of AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines is the first of the total of 480,000 doses being planned for delivery to the Lao PDR via the COVAX initiative this year to cover about 20 per cent of the total population.

“I would like to extend my warmest gratitude to the COVAX facility and our partners, Gavi, UNICEF and WHO, for their tremendous and valuable support in procuring this latest batch of COVID-19 vaccines. With the arrival of this shipment of vaccines, the Lao PDR takes another step forward in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic,” remarked Assoc. Prof. Dr. Bounkong Syhavong, Minister of Health.

According the country’s National Deployment and Vaccination Plan (NVDP), this initial batch of AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines will be used by the government of the Lao PDR to first immunise priority groups in the country who are at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19 and those who are most likely to develop severe symptoms from infection. This includes frontline healthcare workers, older adults above the age of 60 and people with underlying health conditions. Some essential workers will also be prioritised based on the nature of the job and high-risk of exposure to COVID-19 such as workers at points of entry and in quarantine centres.

In addition to the vaccines, the Lao PDR received a day earlier 84,000 syringes and 840 safety boxes as well procured by UNICEF, which will enable the government of the Lao PDR to commence its vaccination campaign targeting these priority groups.

“This is a landmark moment for the Lao PDR and the COVAX Facility’s mission to help end the acute phase of the pandemic by enabling equitable access to these vaccines across the world,” stated Ms. Véronique Maeva Fages, Senior Country Manager for Country Programmes at Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. “We would like to congratulate the government of the Lao PDR for their inspiring leadership and their commitment to protecting the Lao people during this pandemic. Gavi looks forward to these vaccines being made available to the people most at risk, as soon as possible,” Ms. Fages further added.

GAVI board members represented in the Lao PDR include Australia, Canada, the European Commission, France, Germany, India, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America. Multilateral agencies like the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank supported the country in COVID-19 response in general and specifically the preparedness for the vaccination roll-out.

Producing a vaccine against a previously unknown disease in less than a year is a major achievement for medical science globally. And making sure that every country in the world has a fair and equitable access to the vaccines through the COVAX facility is also an extremely important breakthrough.

“The arrival of the vaccines provided by the COVAX Facility is a game changer for the Lao PDR’s ongoing fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and shows what is possible when there is a spirit of solidarity among the international community to collectively address this common threat. These COVID-19 vaccines have been carefully reviewed by WHO and assessed for quality, safety and efficacy; we are so pleased that the Lao PDR has access to these vaccines just one month following their Emergency Use Listing (EUL) by WHO in February,” said Dr. Mark Jacobs, WHO Representative to the Lao PDR. ”No country will be safe from the pandemic until all countries are protected. The arrival of the vaccines from COVAX in the Lao PDR today is a step in the right direction towards this ultimate goal,” Dr. Jacobs explained

The vaccines that will be used in the Lao PDR have gone through a rigorous development and safety testing procedures, where the Ministry of Health – Food and Drug Department has assessed the evidence, benefits and risks. The AstraZeneca vaccine licensed to Serum Institute of India provided through the COVAX was authorised for emergency use by the Ministry of Health on Feb 22, after being listed for emergency use by WHO on Feb 15.

“This is truly amomentous occasion for the Lao PDR and marks a major milestone in ensuring fairer access to vaccines globally. UNICEF is proud to be playing a leading role in supplying COVID-19 vaccines to the Lao PDR and contributing to strengthening the country’s capacity to handle the pandemic,” stated Dr. Pia Rebello Britto, UNICEF Representative to the Lao PDR. “We are especially grateful to all partners for their significant contributions to GAVI and COVAX that have made possible the delivery of vaccines to the Lao PDR. As the largest procurer of vaccines to Laos, for over a decade, UNICEF is aware of the critical role of such partnerships in delivering life-saving supplies for children,” Dr. Britto added.

The arrival of the vaccines in the Lao PDR marks a key milestone for the COVAX facility in its unprecedented effort to deliver at least 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021, in what will be the largest vaccine procurement and supply operation in history.

COVAX is co-led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), working in partnership with UNICEF as well as the World Bank, civil society organisations, manufacturers, and others. COVAX is part of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a ground-breaking global collaboration to accelerate development, production, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.

COVAX has built a diverse portfolio of vaccines suitable for a range of settings and populations, and is on track to meet its goal of delivering at least 2 billion doses of vaccine to participating countries around the globe in 2021, including at least 1.3 billion donor-funded doses to the 92 lower-income COVAX Facility participants supported by the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Committee (AMC).

Source: Lao News Agency