US Hands over More than 1 Million Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine to Lao PDR

Today, U.S. Ambassador to Lao PDR Peter M. Haymond handed over more than one million doses of the Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (J&J/Janssen) COVID-19 vaccine donated by the United States through the COVAX Facility and delivered by UNICEF to the Government of the Lao PDR in an official ceremony at the Wattay International Airport chaired by Vice President of Lao PDR Pany Yathotou.

Minister of Health Bounfeng Phoummalaysith, WHO Officer-in-Charge to Lao PDR Gao Jun, and UNICEF Representative a.i. to Lao PDR Beate Dastel, as well as other partners also attended the handover ceremony.

This latest shipment of vaccines is part of the United States’ contribution to the ongoing global efforts to end the pandemic, and support for Lao PDR’s goal to vaccinate 50 per cent of its population by the end of 2021.

“The Government of Lao PDR highly values the continued efforts of the Government of the United States of America and the American people in assisting the Government and the Lao people. This assistance, in the form of COVID-19 donated doses, is a clear indication of the good cooperation between our two countries, the Lao PDR and the United States of America, under the comprehensive partnership. I am confident that the arrival of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines will accelerate the efforts to reach 50 per cent of the population in 2021,” remarked Vice President Pany Yathotou.

With this donation of 1,008,000 doses, which is a direct contribution from the American people to the Lao PDR, the Lao Government will be able to provide protection against the virus to more than one million people, out of the country’s approximately 7 million total population.

The J&J/Janssen COVID-19 vaccine differs from other types of COVID-19 vaccines currently available in Lao PDR as it only requires a single dose. In addition, the J&J/Janssen vaccine can be stored at regular refrigeration temperatures, which makes it ideally suited for immunizing populations in rural or hard-to-reach areas.

“I am proud to represent the United States Government in providing these lifesaving vaccines to the people of the Lao PDR,” remarked US Ambassador to the Lao PDR Peter M. Haymond. “Today’s donation will ensure that more than one million additional Lao people – approximately 14 per cent of the Lao PDR population – will be fully vaccinated against COVID-19. This brings the Lao PDR closer to its goal of vaccinating 50 per cent of its population by the end of 2021, and brings the world closer to ending this pandemic,” he added.

The Lao PDR Government will use these J&J/Janssen doses to first vaccinate priority groups, including people above 60 years of age, people with underlying health conditions, and health workers across the country, in line with the National Deployment and Vaccination Plan and further plan for its use to other target population, including those in remote and hard to reach areas.

“Ensuring equitable access to vaccines and vaccinating the world’s most vulnerable has been the key priorities for WHO. The United States’ support is very timely as it comes at a time when the country needs it most and will help bring the vaccines to those most in need in hard-to-reach areas,” said WHO Officer-in-Charge to Lao PDR Gao Jun.

“Vaccines save lives as progress in childhood immunization over the last decades has shown. Thus, it brings me joy to see the steady progress we are collectively making towards vaccinating the Lao population. I would like to thank the United States of America, particularly the U.S. Embassy in Lao PDR 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. As the virus mutates producing new variants, the need to join hands to defeat it is even greater. Donating doses now is a smart policy that speaks to our collective best interests,” stated UNICEF Representative a.i. to Lao PDR Beate Dastel.

In addition to this latest shipment of the J&J/Janssen vaccines, Lao PDR previously received a shipment of 132,000 doses of Astra Zeneca / Oxford COVID-19 vaccines in March 2021 and also a shipment of 100,620 doses of Pfizer BioNTech vaccines in early June 2021, both of which were procured through the COVAX Facility.

Source: Lao News Agency