- General

Laos commences rollout of COVAX-supported COVID-19 vaccines

The Lao PDR today commences its national rollout of COVAX-supported COVID-19 vaccines through a mass vaccination session organised at the Mittaphab Hospital.

The mass vaccination session will be taking place over the span of two days, from Apr 2 to 3, and is focused on providing immunisation to around 4,000 individuals categorised as being at the greatest risk of exposure to COVID-19 and those who are most likely to develop severe symptoms from infection.

After this initial push the vaccines will be administered in seven central hospitals in Vientiane and at provincial level.

The vaccines used during the mass vaccination were recently shipped to the Lao PDR on Mar 20 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), and consist of 132,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine manufactured by the Serum Institute of India (SII).

This shipment is the first of the Lao PDR’s initial allocation of 480,000 doses. COVAX aspires to provide enough vaccine supply to cover at least 20% of the population this year.

“This mass vaccination with the first batch of AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines supported by COVAX is another critical step for the Lao PDR in the country’s goal of ending the acute phase of the pandemic,” stated Vice Minister of Health Phouthone Muangpak. “To successfully end this pandemic, all of us will need to do our part. It is vital that those who are listed as the most vulnerable and at-risk groups get vaccinated so that we can protect our community against COVID-19,” he emphasised.

According the country’s National Deployment and Vaccination Plan (NVDP), the 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 include 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 and diplomatic staff.

“No country is safe from COVID-19 unless every country is protected, and vaccines are the key to achieving this. These COVID-19 vaccines have been carefully reviewed by WHO and assessed for quality, safety and efficacy,” stated Dr. Mark Jacobs, WHO Representative to the Lao PDR. “I would like to congratulate the government of the Lao PDR for their efficiency and swiftness in organising this mass vaccination session, only shortly after receiving the latest shipment of COVID-19 vaccines supported by COVAX,” Dr. Jacobs added.

The vaccines that will be used in the Lao PDR have gone through rigorous development and safety testing procedures, where the Ministry of Health’s Food and Drug Department has assessed the evidence, benefits and risks. The AstraZeneca vaccine licensed to Serum Institute of India provided through 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.

“UNICEF is proud to be playing a major role in procuring COVID-19 vaccines for the Lao PDR through the COVAX facility with the support of partners. It brings me joy to see how the vaccines that we have worked tirelessly to procure are now being used by the Lao PDR to take another important step towards ending the pandemic and for the good health of all,” stated Dr. Pia Rebello Britto, UNICEF Representative to the Lao PDR. “UNICEF alongside our sister agency, WHO, will continue to work closely and provide our technical expertise to the government of the Lao PDR to ensure equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines in the country,” Dr. Britto further added.

Source: Lao News Agency