Vientiane, January 26, 2022 – Today, the United States officially handed over 1,698,840 doses of the Pfizer BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine to Lao PDR, which were delivered to the country through the COVAX Facility. COVAX is a partnership co-led by Gavi, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), and the World Health Organization (WHO), with UNICEF as a key delivery partner.
The vaccines were handed over by U.S. Ambassador to Lao PDR, Dr. Peter M. Haymond to H.E. Dr. Phankham Viphavanh, Prime Minister of Lao PDR. The handover ceremony for the vaccines was also attended by the Minister of Health, H.E. Dr. Bounfeng Phoummalaysith, the Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, H.E. Mr. Bounleua Phandanouvong,UNICEF Representative a.i. to Lao PDR, Ms. Beate Dastel, WHO Officer-in-Charge to Lao PDR, Dr. Yu Lee Park, alongside charge d’affaires and international organizations, key development partners and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Health officials.
These Pfizer BioNTech vaccines arrived earlier this month in Lao PDR in two separate shipments. The first shipment of 799,110 doses arrived in the country on January 2, 2022 and the second shipment of 899,730 doses on January 24, 2022.
“The Government of Lao PDR would like to extend its appreciation to the United States for this valuable support. These vaccines and funding support will help us reach our target of vaccinating 80 per cent of the population in 2022 and more importantly, they will help save lives,” stated H.E. Minister of Health, Dr. Bounfeng Phommalaysith. “The arrival of these Pfizer vaccines is very timely as we are currently vaccinating adolescents. These doses will play a vital role in vaccinating adolescents aged 12 to 17 years old as per the National Deployment and Vaccination Plan (NDVP).”
In addition to adolescents aged 12 to 17 years, these vaccines will also be administered to other priority groups including people aged 60 years and older, people with underlying health conditions, and pregnant women.
Speaking at the handover ceremony held at Wattay International Airport, Dr. Peter M. Haymond, U.S. Ambassador to Lao PDR, congratulated the Government of Lao PDR in its efforts to vaccinate and protect the people of Laos and highlighted the U.S.-Lao Comprehensive Partnership. “The United States is proud to support Lao PDR with these crucial vaccines, which will save lives and have a positive impact in the safe reopening of schools in the country,” stated Ambassador Haymond. “As we work together to end the pandemic, we will continue to support Lao PDR in mitigating the wide-ranging economic and social impacts of COVID-19. The United States will continue its support for businesses, the educational system, health care, persons with disabilities, and rule of law.”
This latest donation builds upon the United States previous July 2021 donation of one million doses of the Johnson & Johnson vaccines to Lao PDR, and was also delivered through the COVAX Facility. With this latest shipment of Pfizer BioNTech vaccines, the United States has now provided 2,706,840 doses of COVID-19 vaccine to Lao PDR.
“The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine has been tested in clinical trials for adolescents aged between 12-17 years old and is proven safe and effective for this age group. The vaccine has also been thoroughly reviewed by the WHO and was listed for emergency use in December 2020. These vaccines will help to protect lives in Lao PDR and help prevent dangerous new variants from spreading in the country,” stated Dr. Yu Lee Park, WHO Officer-in-Charge to Lao PDR.
“UNICEF is proud to play a role in delivering COVID-19 vaccines to Lao PDR as part of the COVAX Facility. As always, we and our partners stand ready to support the Government of Lao PDR in its COVID-19 response activities and to ensure that no one is left behind during the pandemic,” stated Ms. Beate Dastel, UNICEF Representative a.i. to Lao PDR.
In addition, the United States, through USAID, is partnering with UNICEF and WHO to strengthen Lao PDR’s capacity to safely and effectively distribute COVID-19 vaccines. To date, the United States has provided over $13 million of support to Lao PDR since the pandemic began to expand COVID-19 testing, keep health workers safe with personal protective equipment, and strengthen disease surveillance.