Lao PDR to use Refrigerated Vaccine Transport Vehicles to expand immunization coverage in rural areas.
Attapeu, 7 January 2023: The Government of Japan has handed over two Refrigerated Vaccine Transport Vehicles (RVTVs) to the Government of Lao PDR through UNICEF to support the country’s ongoing routine immunization and COVID-19 vaccination programme in Sekong and Attapeu Province.
This is the Government’s latest effort to close the vaccine equity gap in Lao PDR and revive the routine immunization coverage to the pre-pandemic level using an innovative approach.
H.E. Mr. Kobayashi Kenichi, Ambassador of Japan to Lao PDR, handed the keys to the vehicles to H.E. Dr. Bounfeng Phommalasysith, Minister of Health at an event in Attapeu Province.
“With over 85 per cent of the population completing the primary series, the COVID-19 vaccination campaign in Lao PDR has been successful. However, some districts in our southern provinces are yet to achieve the target due to difficult terrain and road networks,” said Dr. Bounfeng, Minister of Health. “Thanks to the new Refrigerated Vaccine Transport Vehicles, the vaccines can now safely be transported to the remotest part of the country while maintaining their potency,” he added further.
The newly purchased vehicles will be based in Attapeu, Sekong and Savannakhet (one in Savannakhet will be handed over in coming days) Provinces to strengthen the vaccine uptake in the low-performing districts. The RVTVs are WHO Performance, Quality and Safety-qualified vehicles that contain a fixed refrigerator. They can safely transport vaccines at temperatures between 2-8°C while also providing safe, vial breakage-free transportation. With their ability to travel through difficult terrain, the RVTVs can maintain the cold chain until the last point of the cold chain – the health center.
“In Laos, particularly in remote areas, people are facing logistical difficulties to deliver vaccines from the central parts of the country due to severe road conditions, topographical factors and lack of necessary equipment” said Mr. Kobayashi Kenichi, Ambassador of Japan. “In tackling these challenges, Japan decided to implement this project immediately after the pandemic was declared, based on the concept that is to facilitate the delivery of vaccines to each and every person who needs them. We will continue to act upon our strong desire for continued close collaboration with the international community and development partners such as UNICEF,” he added.
The Government of Japan is a strong supporter of Lao PDR’s immunization programme since its establishment. The recent procurement of RVTVs is part of the overall USD 1.1 million support from the Government of Japan. With the funds, 697 Vaccine refrigerators, 500 vaccine carriers and 100 cold boxes were procured through UNICEF. This equipment has been distributed and installed. The upgrades on the cold chain system are bound to ensure the safe storage of vaccines for at least the next 5 to 7 years.
“The routine immunization programme has saved millions of lives globally giving children the best start to life. But, the gains made over the decades are in danger as the coverage is yet to reach pre-pandemic levels,” said Dr Pia Rebello Britto, UNICEF Representative. “Thanks to Japan’s support, we are confident, we will regain the momentum of routine immunization and also expand the COVID-19 vaccination coverage reaching the hardest to reach,” she reaffirmed.
A high-level delegation of the Ministry of Health, the Government of Japan, the World Health Organization and UNICEF are currently visiting four southern provinces including Salavan, Xekong, Attapeau and Champasak. They are visiting provincial and district-level hospitals in some of the low-performing districts to understand bottlenecks and challenges in service delivery and review the progress of covid-19 vaccination.
About the Government of Japan
Japan, in cooperation with international organizations, has provided grant assistance and technical assistance worth more than $ 26 million to the Government of Laos, with the aim of controlling the spread of COVID-19 and supporting recovery from the adverse ongoing impacts of COVID-19 in various sectors, as well as approximately 1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines. The 70th anniversary of Japan-Laos diplomatic relations and the 10th anniversary of the bilateral strategic partnership will be marked in 2025. Japan, as a strategic partner of the Lao PDR continues supporting the efforts of the Government of Laos to overcome the impacts of this COVID-19 pandemic and move on to next steps for “Build Back Better”.
UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.
For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.