Close the immunisation gap

Vientiane, 10 May 2016

In time for the World Immunisation Week (24-30 April), the Lao Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF have issued a fresh call to promote the use of life-saving vaccines for all families and communities in Lao PDR.

 

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Photo: UN Lao PDR / Jim Buy Lao

Gains in immunisation coverage of measles and diphtheria in recent years have been welcomed by all. However, both Government and UN agencies stressed that progress is fragile, and there is no room for complacency - the ongoing polio outbreak being a good example for this statement.

Dr. Juliet Fleischl, WHO Representative to Lao PDR said: "We have unfinished business in Lao People's Democratic Republic with the ongoing polio outbreak. We need to contain the outbreak and at the same time, the Government of Lao PDR has also introduced the Inactivated Polio Vaccine in October last year as the part of the polio end game strategy. The resurgence of polio reminds us that routine immunisation is important to maintain high immunisation coverage."

Immunisation can prevent illness, disability and death from vaccine-preventable diseases like diphtheria, hepatitis B, measles, rubella, pertussis (whooping cough), pneumonia, poliomyelitis, cervical cancer, rotavirus diarrhoea and tetanus. Low immunisation coverage can trigger renewed outbreaks.

"Vaccines are one of the most effective health initiative ever and all children should have access. More and more children around the world are now protected by vaccination but we must do more to ensure the most disadvantaged children get vaccinated in a timely manner against preventable diseases. Every child should have the right to that basic protection," said Ms. Hongwei Gao, UNICEF Representative in Lao PDR.

To commemorate the World Immunisation Week, the National Immunization Program of the Ministry of Health has conducted on-site integrated Maternal and Child Health and Immunisation activities at central and provincial hospitals to promote routine vaccination. The unit organised a five-day intensive mobile outreach health education activity in ten selected districts to reach vulnerable and remote communities. A student-peer workshop where student volunteers learn about routine vaccination, targeted at ethnic groups, was also organised.

Dr. Anonh Xeuatvongsa, National Immunization Program Manager said: "We are working with our partners, WHO and UNICEF to close the immunisation gap and ensure that we reduce missed opportunities and reach these vulnerable groups. Immunisation is one of the most successful and cost-effective health interventions; we want to see our children grow into healthy adults and mothers to deliver healthy babies."

The Ministry of Health is strongly committed to swiftly ending the current polio outbreak through comprehensive immunisation. Every additional dose of the polio vaccine administered to a child will give extra protection and strengthen the child's immunity against polio. Many countries have organised multiple rounds of vaccination activities to successfully contain polio outbreaks.

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