Vientiane, 13 September 2021 – The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) on 13 September officially announced a grant of USD 2 million to help support the readiness, delivery, and monitoring of COVID-19 vaccines to Lao PDR and to strengthen the country’s cold chain system. The USAID grant to UNICEF and the WHO was announced at a ceremony held at the Ministry of Health and chaired by Minister of Health Dr. Bounfeng Phoummalaysith, U.S. Ambassador to Lao PDR Dr. Peter M. Haymond, UNICEF Country Representative to Lao PDR Pia Rebello Britto, and the WHO Officer-in-Charge to Lao PDR Dr. Jun Gao.
USAID’s support will accelerate the implementation of the National Deployment and Vaccination plan for COVID-19 in Lao PDR by ensuring the health system's readiness for vaccine delivery. This funding will also be used to support the Ministry of Health in strengthening the regulations and policies for vaccine administration and safety.
With this support, UNICEF will work on strengthening Lao PDR’s cold chain and logistics capacity, including the operationalization of cold chain hubs in Luang Prabang, Saravanh, Savannakhet, Oudomxay, Champasak and Vientiane. It will also contribute towards enabling COVID-19 vaccines to be safely distributed and disposed of after use; improve the monitoring and evaluation of COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, and expand pre-registration via the https://vaccinatelaos.la/(link is external) website for better documentation.
Minister Bounfeng commended USAID’s contribution and highlighted the growing partnership between the United States and Lao PDR, he stated that “USAID’s funding will greatly improve our ability to accelerate and monitor the progress in rolling out COVID-19 vaccination throughout Lao PDR, especially as we work towards the achievement of our goal of 50% coverage by the end of 2021. We appreciate the comprehensive support to accelerate the delivery of life-saving COVID-19 vaccines to reach people across the country, particularly those living in more remote areas”.
Ambassador Haymond congratulated the Government of Lao PDR on its successful efforts in keeping the public safe from COVID-19 and highlighted the growing U.S. Lao Comprehensive Partnership, which commemorates its five year anniversary this year. “It is my hope that this grant from USAID to UNICEF and WHO will contribute towards strengthening all aspects of COVID-19 vaccinations in Lao PDR, as well as the health system more generally and the human resource capacity underpinning it. The United States is proud to support the implementation of the National Deployment and Vaccination Plan for COVID-19 vaccines and the acceleration of COVID-19 vaccination coverage in Lao PDR,” stated Ambassador Haymond.
Dr. Gao stated, “Immunization is critical to ending the COVID-19 pandemic, saving lives and reducing socio-economic disruption, so expanding the reach of COVID-19 vaccinations is vital for Lao PDR, especially as more provinces are reporting an increase in COVID-19 cases. WHO is extremely grateful to USAID for this financial support which will allow us to expand our technical support to MOH in the deployment of COVID-19 vaccines as well as strengthen the delivery of routine immunization and other essential health services more generally.”
UNICEF Country Representative Britto said, “We would like to express our sincerest thanks to USAID for this timely grant, which will help accelerate our current progress towards the vaccination goals set out by the Government of Lao PDR. I would like to take this opportunity to commend the Government of Lao PDR for the school re-opening and for focusing on prioritizing the vaccination of teachers and education staff, which are among measures that build confidence in the re-opening of schools which is central to children’s development, learning, safety and well-being.”
Together with this grant, the United States, through USAID and the U.S. Center for Disease Control, has provided assistance valued at nearly US$10 million to support the Lao government in the fight against COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. In July 2021, the United States donated more than one million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to the Lao PDR as part of President Biden’s effort to end the pandemic around the world. Previous assistance from USAID to UNICEF and the WHO has also supported Lao PDR in training for frontline workers, nurses and doctors, providing medical and laboratory equipment, and reopening schools safely and helping children throughout Lao PDR continue to learn.