Vientiane, Lao PDR, 23 November 2022:This month, an innovative nationwide vaccination training programme for healthcare workers concluded in Houaphanh province, wrapping up a nationwide training programme across all of Lao PDR’s provinces. The training focused on the latest COVID-19 vaccine information and explored strategies and tools to address COVID-19 and other vaccination gaps.
“Protecting the most vulnerable and closing COVID-19 vaccination gaps – particularly among high-risk groups like the elderly, pregnant women, and people with underlying health conditions – is one of our top priorities, said Dr Phonepaseuth Ounaphom, Director of the Department of Health and Hygiene Promotion. “This training ensures healthcare workers at the central, provincial, district, and community level can better achieve this goal, and support reinvigorating routine immunization disrupted by the pandemic.”
Jointly facilitated by the Ministry of Health, WHO and UNICEF, with support from the Australian Government, through the regional vaccine access programme and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the training included national, provincial and district-level staff, in all provinces and 148 districts, to train around 2,500 hospital and health centre staff.
Currently, 74 percent of the population have completed the COVID-19 vaccine primary series, coming closer to the 80 percent target for 2022. However, only one in four of the elderly population, who are at the highest risk for COVID-19, have received their COVID-19 booster. Unfortunately, lifesaving routine childhood immunization, like measles, also fell behind during the COVID-19 pandemic – according to Ministry of Health data, just over 62 percent of all children under the age of one are fully immunized1.
WHO Representative Dr Ying-Ru Lo said: “As in many countries, progress has been made to protect people from COVID-19, however, significant gaps remain in vaccine coverage, and routine vaccinations have fallen behind for a variety of reasons – this must be addressed.”
“The hard work is not over yet, and we must protect the most vulnerable in our community. If you or family members are unvaccinated, or have not had a booster, or have missed routine vaccination, the message is clear: get vaccinated.”
UNICEF Representative Dr. Pia Rebello Britto said: “We are working closely with the Ministry of Health to organize catch-up campaign in the coming months, especially in those districts where there’s a high number of unvaccinated children, so that no child is left behind and every child is protected against preventable childhood diseases”.
More than 2,500 healthcare workers took part in the training, including vaccination teams from the Ministry of Health, Vientiane District, health centres, military health units, and provincial and district hospitals. Staff from the Ministry of Education and Sports, UN agencies and development partners also participated.
The training forms part of efforts to combine COVID-19 vaccination with routine immunization efforts, and ongoing support by the Government and development partners to ensure recovery from the pandemic, with its wide impacts on families, communities, schools, workplaces and the economy.