International EPI programme review in the Lao People's Democratic Republic
From 30 April to 8 May 2012, an international review of the Lao People's Democratic Republic Expanded Programme on Immunization (EPI) programme took place. The Lao PDR launched EPI in 1984 and has conducted EPI Programme Reviews in 1985, 1989 and 1995 together with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners. After renewing the comprehensive multi-year plan (cMYP) in May 2011 for the year 2012–2015, the Government of the Lao PDR decided to carry out a National EPI Review in April-May 2012 in collaboration with WHO (Headquarters, Western Pacific Regional Office, Country Offices and Technical Advisory Group), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (GAVI), Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Luxembourg Development. These EPI Reviews are seen as a good opportunity to strengthen national immunization programme (NIP) (e.g. Global Immunization Vision and Strategies [GIVS] 7) and advocate the country on the importance of immunization as backbone for specific disease control and other health interventions.
From 30 April–8 May 2012, 12 teams consisting of international national and provincial immunization experts visited 12 of 17 provinces in the Lao PDR, 24 districts in 12 provinces, and 2-3 health centres and vaccination sites in each district with the following objectives:
- to assess the NIP in the Lao PDR from the aspects of national, regional and global immunization goals and targets; and
- to suggest policy options and provide technical recommendations for the Government of the Lao PDR to address strategic issues in the NIP in the Lao PDR with regards to: sustaining polio-free status, measles elimination, maternal and neonatal tetanus elimination (MNTE) and accelerated hepatitis B control; and strengthening and expanding routine childhood immunization programme, introduction of new vaccines and integration of other health interventions.
On 9 May 2012, the review teams presented their findings and recommendations to the Vice-Health Minister of the Lao PDR. The findings and recommendations cover the following areas:
- government funding for immunizations;
- preventive outreach services with maternal and child health (MCH);
- vaccine distribution system;
- compulsory birth registration;
- monitoring of immunization programme and activities;
- collaboration with the education system in developing a national school entry immunization regulation;
- introduction of hepatitis B vaccine out of the cold chain for home births; and
- collaboration with MCH.