How the government steps up to increase immunization coverage in Lao PDR?
The world has changed dramatically since the outbreak of COVID-19. The pandemic disrupted routine immunization services and other essential health services. Low immunization coverage in many developing countries, including Lao PDR, has been exacerbated, posing a huge challenge to ensure that every child is vaccinated in every corner.
The urgency of improving the immunization coverage was realized after Lao PDR experienced a measles outbreak in its southern province early this year, coupled with a significant drop in MR1 at only 45 per cent due to the disruption.
Immediate action was needed !
Government steps up the national immunization program.
The Ministry of Health, on August 4, 2020, called key sectors namely Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, Lao National Front for Development, Lao Women’s Union, Lao Youth Union, and development partners working in the area of women and child health, to discuss the issue. The aim was to urge these sectors to support the national immunization program.
The Government of Lao PDR has set a target to provide full vaccination to 95 per cent of children under one year “There are many challenges we are facing. So, to achieve the goals, we have to work with various partners beyond the health sector,” said Dr. Panom, Deputy Director of the Department of Health Promotion and Hygiene, MoH.
Strengthening partnerships with non-health sectors will act as a catylist in increasing immunization coverage. To enable these sectors to work together regularly, the Ministry of Health proposed to form a ‘Communication Taskforce’ to support not just immunization but also other areas of mother and child health. It has been agreed that this Taskforce will meet quarterly to ensure regular communication and coordination across sectors at all levels. It is also expected that the Taskforce will implement joint activities under the joint plan.
“When a child is deprived of immunization, their lives and communities are at risk. Vaccines play a key role in ending preventable child deaths,” said Ms. Beate Dastel, UNICEF Representative a.i. “UNICEF has been working alongside the Government of Lao PDR and partners to vaccinate every child in every community, no matter how remote or challenging. We are committed to working with partners to strengthen immunization programmes to identify and prioritize children to ensure no one is left behind,” she added.