The Government of Lao PDR, the European Union, WHO and UNICEF jointly Celebrate the Life-Saving Power of Vaccines on World Immunization Week 2022

Joint Op-Ed by the European Union, WHO and UNICEF.

09 May 2022
A man receiving vaccine
WHO/Philippe Aramburu

The Government of Lao PDR and the European Union have cultivated a long-standing partnership since the two parties first established diplomatic relations in 1975. Since then, the EU has consistently maintained its status as a key bilateral donor in the country, working with partners such as WHO and UNICEF across several areas of cooperation, such as education and nutrition for the benefit of Lao women and children, and helping to advance Lao PDR’s socio-economic development and its sustainable growth agenda. WHO and UNICEF have been working for more than 45 years in the country to deliver immunizations for children.

When the threat of a mass outbreak of COVID-19 in Lao PDR emerged in early 2021, the EU and Lao PDR’s partnership remained steadfast as ever. Working with its member states in Lao PDR as Team Europe side-by-side with WHO and UNICEF via the COVAX Facility, the EU delivered a whopping 1,454,400 doses of COVID-19 vaccines to the Lao people by the end of 2021.

These vaccines arrived in Lao PDR in late 2021 and consisted of dose-sharing donations by individual EU member states. They were comprised of two types of vaccines, which are the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine provided by France (192,000 doses), Finland (100,800 doses), Sweden (199,200 doses) and the Netherlands (199,200 doses), alongside the vaccines provided by Greece (302,400 doses) and the Netherlands (460,800 doses). With these donations through the COVAX facility added to other bilateral deliveries from EU Member States, Team Europe has in total provided over 2 million vaccines to date to the Lao PDR and stands ready to respond to future requests.

Although the pandemic has forced families and the community to be apart for extended periods of time and has created a sense of isolation between countries due to limited global travel, this helping hand to Lao PDR from continents away is a testament to the common spirit of solidarity shared between the people of Europe and the Lao people.

These vaccines arrived at a critical point for Lao PDR as it was making its final push towards the target of 50 per cent vaccination coverage for the total population for 2021. The vaccines greatly helped those in the community who were most vulnerable, preventing either severe illness or death from the virus, especially for the elderly, pregnant women and immunocompromised persons.

Thus, our early aspirations toward vaccinating Laos against COVID-19 no longer seemed that far out of reach. With every single dose of vaccination administered, we are reminded of the life-saving power of vaccines as deaths and cases of severe illness from the virus steadily declined in the country.

Vaccine registration
WHO/Philippe Aramburu
A response team set up a vaccination post and register the villagers for COVID-19 vaccine

A Long Life For All

This week is an especially significant moment for vaccination as we observe World Immunization Week (WIW), which takes place in the last week of every April.

The international observance is meant to celebrate how vaccination connects us to the people, goals and moments that are the most precious to us. With the theme for this year being ‘Long Life for All, WIW 2022 is an opportunity to remind ourselves of the importance of immunization in securing our hopes and dreams and those of future generations.

As global discussions about vaccines today continue to be dominated by COVID-19, it is easy to lose sight of just how much good vaccines have done for humanity in the past decades: from the time the physician Edward Jenner administered the very first modern vaccine in 1796 to an eight year old boy named James Phipps against smallpox; to the development of the first polio vaccine by Jonas Salk and the development of a vaccine against yellow fever by Max Theiler; it is important to remember that vaccines have been instrumental in our efforts to lessen human suffering throughout the decades and recognise that our current COVID-19 vaccines exist as part of this long lineage of efforts.

Therefore, on the occasion of WIW 2022, the EU, WHO and UNICEF together celebrates the life-saving power of vaccines and those who have played a role in immunization through the years.

We celebrate the efforts of the Government of Lao PDR, who are working day and night to handle the pandemic.

We celebrate the dedication of the health workers and volunteers on the ground who are ensuring that everyone in the country, from the young to the elderly, receive their vaccination.

Finally, if you have ever been vaccinated, or vaccinated your children, then know that you are also a part of the arm-to-arm chain that keeps all of humanity safe and ensuring a long life for all.

Vaccine delivery
UNICEF Laos/2021
Arrival of first batch of COVID-19 vaccines through COVAX facility. From left to right: Dr. Mark Jacobs, former WHO Representative to Lao PDR, H.E Ms. Ina Marčiulionytė, the Ambassador for the Delegation of the European Union to the Lao PDR and Dr. Pia Rebello Britto, UNICEF Representative to Lao PDR.

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