The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism (MICT), the Ministry of Health (MOH) and UNICEF, recently concluded a five-day visit with a team of journalists to Savannakhet. The visit was aimed at identifying key challenges in increasing COVID-19 vaccination coverage in Savannakhet and ways to strengthen the province’s efforts toward meeting the ambitious national target of 80 per cent total vaccination coverage by 2022.
The delegation of journalists, led by Mr. Sangkhane Choumkhamphanh, Deputy Director General of the Lao National Radio, embarked on the mission to Savannakhet last week, beginning with a visit to the Savannakhet Information, Culture and Tourism Department where they interviewed Ms. Daovone Saysoulian, Director of the Savannakhet Provincial Information, Culture and Tourism Department.
She highlighted the importance of the media to Savannakhet and the Lao PDR’s overall COVID-19 response. She noted that the decreasing number of COVID-19 cases in the country has led some people to become less cautious and highlighted the need to continue promoting vaccination in both urban and rural areas remain especially important.
“We all need to work together to increase the vaccination rate in Savannakhet and protect our community from COVID-19,” said Ms. Daovone.
The media is working closely with health authorities in Savannakhet for the province’s COVID-19 response and the delegation was also briefed by health authorities in three districts of the province, including Phin, Phalanxay and Xonnabouly, on the achievements and challenges around COVID-19 vaccination in each individual district.
The district authorities noted that the reopening of the country has changed how people perceive the importance of vaccination and the threat of COVID-19. Furthermore, vaccine hesitancy remains a major obstacle among the districts, with some people being reluctant to get vaccinated because of their religious beliefs or fears created by misinformation around the vaccine safety.
“Our current strategy for COVID-19 vaccination in Savannakhet includes the use of fixed vaccination sites, such as health centres or district and provincial hospitals, alongside mobile vaccination units who visit each village every month. We have been offering vaccination services to the community since March 2021,” said Ms. Vongsone Vongphachanh, Deputy Director of Savannakhet Provincial Sanitation and Health Promotion Section. “We are also utilising all communication channels available, from posters to Facebook, to continue engaging communities around the importance and safety of vaccines,” she further explained.
The team of journalists had the chance to observe first-hand one of these mobile vaccination units in action at the village level as well. At one of these outreach vaccination sessions in Napo village of Phin District, a 67 year old resident came by herself early in the morning for her vaccination.
“This is my third dose of vaccination already,” she said. For her first two doses, she said she did not experience any side-effects whatsoever and was very enthusiastic about receiving her third dose of vaccination. She also said all her family has been vaccinated already.“ Before I got my vaccination, I was quite afraid to go out of my house. Now, I feel more safer having been vaccinated,” she stated.
Alongside older individuals like her, younger people and children in the three districts are also taking part in the vaccination drive as well after vaccination for the age group six years old and above was authorised by the Ministry of Health in February.
Deputy Director of the Savannakhet Provincial Health Department, Dr. Tiangkham Pongvongsa, also gave an interview to the media.
“It is well acknowledged that vaccines can help lower cases of severe illness and death from COVID-19. I therefore urge all relevant authorities to work closely together and ramp up efforts to engage communities and increase public understanding about the benefits of vaccines,” said Dr. Tiangkham.
Dr. Tiangkham also thanked international partners for their support in the COVID-19 response in Savannakhet, including supplying vaccines and other related equipment. Vaccines that have been used in Savannakhet include the AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Sinopharm and Sinovac.
These vaccines were previously supported by international partners such as Australia, Cambodia, China, the European Union, Finland, France, Greece, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, Poland, Sweden, Vietnam, the United Kingdom and the United States, either bilaterally or through the COVAX Facility.
Countries like Canada, Germany, R. Korea, Luxembourg, and Switzerland have also been key supporters of COVAX and its delivery of vaccines to countries like Lao PDR. As of Jul 17, Savannakhet has reached 67.3 per cent coverage for first dose of vaccination and 57.8 per cent for primary series of vaccination (first and second dose), according to data from the Ministry of Health.
This visit to Savannakhet follows shortly after a briefing on COVID-19 vaccination in June was held for senior news editors from the media, which was organised by MICT through the support of UNICEF. In addition to Savannakhet, journalists from national media will be travelling to the middle and northern provinces of the country in the coming weeks to similarly observe and further promote vaccination efforts there.
Source: Lao News Agency