The Lao government has set specific dates for the nationwide vaccination of children aged 6 and over against Covid, starting on February 21.

The programme is part of government efforts to ensure that people of all rural and ethnic groups are vaccinated against Covid and are protected against Omicron in particular, as this variant of Covid is much more transmissible than the Delta variant.

Vaccinations will take place in the provinces of Huaphan, Xieng Khuang, Oudomxay, Savannakhet and Xaysomboun from February 21 to March 4, according to a notice issued by the Prime Minister’s Office.

In other provinces and Vientiane, vaccination rollout is scheduled for March 4-19. However, provinces that are ready can start vaccinating children on February 22.

After children in this age group have been vaccinated, health authorities will be instructed to consider the possibility of vaccinating children aged 3-5, the two-page notice signed by Minister and Head of the Prime Minister’s Office, Alounxay Sounnalath, stated.

The Ministry of Education and Sports has been instructed to work with the relevant sectors to assess the number of children aged 6-11 and those aged 12 and over, with figures to be provided by public and private schools. These figures must be provided before the vaccination rollout begins.

Even though the number of Covid infections is declining, the National Taskforce for Covid-19 Prevention and Control remains on the alert for Omicron after nearly 30 people have tested positive for the variant in Laos, according to health officials.

Omicron has mostly been detected among people entering Laos from other countries, including Lao nationals returning from Thailand.

The government plans to vaccinate 80 per cent of the population by the end of this year.

Meanwhile, ministries, organisations, factories and local authorities have been told to conduct checks among their staff to identify those who are fully vaccinated, while those who are not will be encouraged to do so.

The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism has been delegated to publicise the vaccination campaign to ensure that target groups and people of all social strata receive proper information and understand the situation, as well as play a part in the immunisation process.

In the meantime, the health ministry has been instructed to work with local authorities to prepare vaccines, equipment, financing and medical personnel to carry out the immunisation programme.

Provincial departments of health have been asked to coordinate with private hospitals to involve them in the vaccination rollout.

As of February 17, more than 4.8 million people, (equal to 65.8 per cent of the population) had received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine and more than 4.25 million (58 per cent) had been fully vaccinated.