Ministry of Health and partners take steps to ensure every child is vaccinated with polio vaccine

Following another round of polio vaccination in June, the Ministry of Health (MOH) together with WHO and UNICEF have sent out field monitors to all 18 provinces to conduct monitoring activity, which is a process to identify pockets of unvaccinated “missed” children.

With every child missed from polio vaccination, the risk of getting the disease increases; thus MOH and the development partners are zeroing down to identify the areas with missed children so that mop-up activities can be planned in these areas.

Visiting house to house to check that every child is vaccinated

Reaching every child remains a challenge in all provinces; these challenges have evolved from one campaign to another so MOH and partners have to keep adapting their strategies.

Dr Ouhen Phitsavath, Deputy Director of Luang Namtha Provincial Health Department explained the challenges faced in his province for this polio campaign, this included school closure so it is hard to reach many of the children under 15 in the target age group. As the farming season has begun, many of these targeted children are helping out their families in the fields, while others may have gone with their parents who are working in banana plantations preparing for harvesting.

Accessibility is another problem faced by many in the country, as there are some communities that are only accessible by the river, while others lived in remote mountains where health workers may have to walk for an hour or more to reach these communities. Health workers have to adjust their work hours to late evening or early morning to reach these children.

In Luang Namtha Province, the MOH and WHO team visited all five districts as part of the monitoring activities. In many households, they found only the elderly and young children, as most adults have gone to work in the fields. The team went from house to house; and in Sing District, they met a young mother and her baby girl who was born about ten days ago.

Infant baby girl receiving the polio vaccine

There were delays in several provinces due to the rainy season but the provincial teams were confident that they can complete the vaccination activities by the first week of July.

It has been observed by field monitors that in some villages where the village head takes the lead to gather the community, vaccination coverage has been good and the monitoring team found a couple of villages with no missed children.

It is important to maintain the close collaboration with the community and local authorities. MOH plans to review the performance of the campaign this month, there will be planned external evaluation of the outbreak response next month. The job is not over yet as there will be planned vaccination in November and December to ensure that all children in Lao PDR continue to be protected from the dreaded disease called poliomyelitis.

Children receiving the polio vaccine at fixed posts

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