VIENTIANE CAPITAL, U.S. Embassy in Laos - - The U.S., through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), officially announced an additional 2.4 million USD grant to UNICEF and the World Health Organization (WHO) to further support the Lao PDR’s ongoing COVID-19 vaccination rollout program.
The grant will primarily focus on supporting the readiness, delivery and post-delivery monitoring of COVID-19 vaccinations in Lao PDR.
The Vice Minister of Health, H.E. Dr. Snong Thongsna, joined by U.S. Ambassador to Lao PDR, H.E. Dr. Peter M. Haymond, UNICEF Deputy Representative to Lao PDR, Ms. Beate Dastel, and the WHO Officer-in-charge to Lao PDR, Dr. Jun Gao, launched the project at an event at the new Ministry of Health facility.
During the event, Vice Minister Thongsna expressed his appreciation to USAID and the U.S. Government for their additional assistance and commended the United States Government, UNICEF and WHO for their valuable support to the Lao people during the COVID-19 pandemic. “As Lao PDR experiences more community cases of COVID-19, the need to scale up our vaccination roll out is a top priority for the Government. This additional grant, funded by USAID and implemented by UNICEF and the WHO, will be a great contribution to our efforts in this regard and towards meeting our vaccination targets,” remarked the Vice Minister.
Ambassador Haymond congratulated the Lao PDR on its efforts to keep the public safe, and highlighted the achievements between the United States, Lao PDR, the WHO and UNICEF. “This new grant reflects the strong and expanding partnership between the governments and people of the United States and Lao PDR. To date, the United States has provided over USD 13 million in support for Lao PDR’s fight against COVID-19,” remarked Ambassador Haymond. “In addition to the health sector, the U.S. Government is committed to helping Lao PDR address the impacts of COVID-19 on the education system, the economy, and rule of law. All of our assistance is to help Lao PDR build back better and become stronger and more prosperous.”
An allotment of USD 1 million of the total grant amount, provided by USAID, will contribute towards helping the WHO strengthen the health system to ensure safe vaccinations for the population. This support aims to sustain the COVID-19 vaccine programme in Lao PDR, by strengthening regulations to ensure proper implementation of emergency use authorization and supporting the procurement of materials and equipment to help monitor and respond to adverse events following immunization. Furthermore, WHO’s implementation of the project will also focus on the development of educational materials and organizing training for health workers as well as improving the quality and availability of data for planning and decision making around COVID-19 vaccinations to help reach remote populations belonging to high-risk groups with vaccination.
“WHO greatly appreciates USAID’s financial contribution, as it adds to the collective goals of regulatory strengthening and scaling up of vaccine safety monitoring. It will also improve COVID-19 vaccination data quality, which can be used for planning, monitoring and decision-making to ensure that the most vulnerable populations are vaccinated,” stated Dr. Gao.
The other allocation of USD 1.4 million of the total grant amount will support UNICEF in providing technical guidance to the Government on monitoring cold chain facilities and logistics, engaging communities on COVID-19 vaccination and monitoring possible adverse events following vaccination. This will also assist in the provision of hygiene supplies for quarantine centers supporting the increasing COVID-19 patients and returning migrants.
“We know that vaccination is a vital pillar of the COVID-19 response here in Lao PDR and is key in our efforts to contain community transmission of COVID-19 and subsequently helping families recover from its devastating impacts. Therefore, UNICEF welcomes the launch of this new project focusing on strengthening vaccination rollout in Lao PDR which will also have a positive impact on strengthening childhood routine immunization. Our sincerest thanks to USAID for their assistance,” said Ms. Beate Dastel.