Source: Vientiane Times
Laos on Monday received more than one million doses of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine donated by the United States (US) government.
The 1,008,000 doses were donated through the COVAX Facility a partnership co-led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the World Health Organisation (WHO), with UNICEF as the key delivery partner.
An official handover ceremony took place at Wattay International Airport following the arrival of the vaccines on Friday.
Addressing the ceremony, Vice President of Laos Mrs Pany Yathotou, on behalf of the Lao government, thanked the US government and people for their generous contribution of Covid-19 vaccines via the COVAX Facility.
She said the government highly valued the continued efforts of the US government and American people in assisting the Lao government and people.
“This assistance, in the form of donated Covid-19 vaccine, is a clear indication of the good cooperation between our two countries, the Lao PDR and the United States of America, under the comprehensive partnership,” she stated.
“I am confident that the arrival of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines will accelerate efforts to vaccinate 50 percent of the population this year.”
The donation will enable the government to provide protection against the virus to more than one million people out of the country’s total population of about 7 million, as only aa single dose is required to build immunity.
“I am proud to represent the United States Government in providing these lifesaving vaccines to the people of the Lao PDR,” US Ambassador to Laos, Dr Haymond told those attending the ceremony.
He said the donation would ensure that more than one million additional Lao people about 14 percent of the total population will be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.
“This brings the Lao PDR closer to its goal of vaccinating 50 percent of the population by the end of 2021, and brings the world closer to ending this pandemic,” the Ambassador added.
The donation came after US President Joe Biden announced in May that the US would donate 80 million doses of Covid-19 vaccines to numerous countries.
The J&J/Janssen vaccine can be stored at regular refrigeration temperatures. Coupled with its single-dose requirement, the vaccine is ideally suited for immunising populations in rural and hard-to-reach areas.
The Lao government will use the J&J/Janssen vaccine to first immunise priority groups, including people above the age of 60, people with underlying health conditions, and health workers across the country, in line with the National Deployment and Vaccination Plan, and further plan for its use in other target groups,, including people in remote and hard-to-reach areas.
“Ensuring equitable access to vaccines and vaccinating the world’s most vulnerable has been the key priority for WHO. The United States’ support is very timely as it comes at a time when Laos needs it most and will help bring the vaccines to those most in need in hard-to-reach areas,” WHO Officer-in-Charge to Laos, Dr Gao Jun, said.
“Equitable access to Covid-19 vaccines represents the clearest pathway out of this pandemic for all of us, children included. As the virus mutates, producing new variants, the need to join hands to defeat it is even greater,” UNICEF’s Acting Deputy Representative, Ms Beate Dastel, said.
“Donating doses now is a smart policy that speaks to our collective best interests.”
In addition to the shipment of J&J/Janssen vaccines, Laos previously received 132,000 doses of the Astra Zeneca/Oxford Covid-19 vaccine in March this year and a shipment of 100,620 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine in early June, both of which were procured through the COVAX Facility.
As of July 13, a total of 1,030,461 people in Laos had received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, accounting for 14 percent of the population.
Given that the country has enough vaccine to fully vaccinate this one million people and adding another 1 million people or 14 percent of the population who will be vaccinated with the US-donated doses, Laos may soon have about 30 percent of the population immunised.
In addition, Japan has announced the donation through the COVAX Facility of 616,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in Japan to the people of Laos, to further boost the vaccination rollout.