Healthcare workers in Lao capital Vientiane will begin administering the first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine to target groups starting on June 16.
The move is part of government efforts to expedite the vaccination programme and immunise 3.7 million people, or 50 per cent of the total population, by the end of this year.
Dr Sisavath Soutthaniraxay, deputy director-general of the Ministry of Health’s Department of Communicable Diseases Control, told a press conference on June 5 that the Pfizer vaccine will be given to 50,300 people over the age of 60 and with underlying health conditions.
Other priority groups are government officials, medical staff, those who work in border areas, and people who regularly cross the border.
First doses will be administered between June 16 and 30 and second doses will be given 21-28 days later.
The government has decided to firstly arrange the rollout of the Pfizer vaccine in the capital because this type of vaccine requires freezers capable of storing it at -80 degree Celsius.
A shipment of 100,620 doses of the vaccine arrived in Laos last week, provided by the Covax Facility – a partnership between the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
“If the target groups receive two doses of the vaccine it will help cut the chain of infection. Countries with a high vaccination rate have started to ease travel restrictions,” Dr Sisavath said.
“The government has instructed the Ministry of Health to speed up the vaccination drive to prevent the virus from spreading.”
As of June 3, more than 647,300 people had received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine, while 283,474 people had been given a second dose.
The AstraZeneca, Sputnik V and Sinopharm vaccines are currently being administered.
Laos is struggling to contain the Covid-19 community outbreak which erupted in mid-April.
Six new cases were reported on June 6, bringing the total to 1,963. Two of the cases were recorded in Vientiane, three in Savannakhet and one in Champasak. More than 1,700 people have been discharged from hospitals.
On June 4, nine cases of Covid-19 were reported nationwide after 1,920 samples were tested for the virus. These included Vientiane (seven), Champasak (one) and Savannakhet (one). On June 5, five new cases were confirmed following the testing of 2,532 samples. These included Vientiane (two), Champasak (one) and Savannakhet (two).
Because of the continuing infections in Vientiane, the government on June 4 extended the lockdown for another 15 days until June 19.
Under a new notice issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, restrictions have been intensified in areas of infection known as red zones.
At the same time, the government has eased some virus control measures to minimise the impacts on the economy and people’s livelihoods.
VIENTIANE TIMES/ASIA NEWS NETWORK