Polio Vaccination Campaign at subnational level targets 460,000 children under 5 in Lao PDR

The National Immunization Program (NIP) under the leadership of the Ministry of Health (MoH), with the support of UNICEF and WHO, will launch a 12-day subnational polio vaccination campaign on 26 March. The campaign will target 13 provinces and 90 districts to vaccinate about 460,000 children aged 0 months to 5 years of age.

More than 7,200 volunteers and 1,400 health workers will join the campaign to ensure that all children aged 0 to 5 in the selected provinces and districts receive the two drops of oral polio vaccine. Children less than one year who missed their planned vaccination calendar will also receive routine immunization vaccines. About 210 staff members from MOH and partner organizations will monitor the activities with the aim of reaching every child, particularly the most vulnerable in remote hard-to-reach areas.

Throughout the campaign period, vaccines will be provided at health centres, district and provincial hospitals, nursery, kindergartens, markets and bus stations. Furthermore, there will be outreach sessions, including house-to-house visits to identify and vaccinate children in high-risk areas, and special sessions in rice fields and other plantation areas.

In May 2017, Lao PDR is determined to be no longer infected with the circulating-vaccine derived polio virus type 1 (cVPDV1) or remains vulnerable to reinfection. After an outbreak of cVDPV1 in 2015, the country has now been without cases for over 24 months, with the last case reported in January 2016. Thus, the outbreak has ceased as per the conclusions the response assessment team.

Dr Phouthone Muongpak, Deputy Health Minister stated that “With partners’ support, Lao PDR has done important outbreak response efforts, including multiple rounds of supplementary immunization activities, expanded social mobilization to raise community awareness and enhanced acute flaccid paralysis (AFP) surveillance activities. However, the threat still exists as polio can spread from endemic countries. We must continue to strengthen routine immunization to ensure all children are protected.”

The commitment of parents, village heads, teachers, health workers, government officials and partners is crucial for a successful campaign. Routine vaccination coverage for polio third dose in 2017 was 85 per cent, lower than the 90 per cent target to create adequate population immunity. The routine vaccination coverage segregated by district shows that the 90 targeted districts for this campaign have not achieved the 90% coverage.

“UNICEF is committed to support the Government in order to protect every child from vaccine preventable diseases. This is why we are facilitating the procurement and supply of vaccines and supporting advocacy at different levels, from national to village level, working hand in hand with traditional and village leaders. In addition, UNICEF will support social mobilization activities with the production of information, education and communication materials that are culturally appropriate and the dissemination of messages through different platforms, such as radio, television or loud speakers, among others,” said Myo Zin Nyunt, UNICEF Deputy Representative, Lao PDR.

“Thanks to the strong collaboration with member states, donors and partners we are on the verge of totally eradicating polio globally. This subnational campaign in Lao PDR will contribute to the global goal of polio eradication and will also help to sustain the interruption of poliovirus transmission in the country, with strengthened surveillance and immunization system. We are one step closer to eradication thanks to the leadership of the Government and the support of our donors and development partners,” added Dr Juliet Fleischl, WHO Representative. WHO provided technical support for planning, supervision and monitoring of campaign activities.

Deputy Minister of Health, Dr Phouthone Muongpak officiated the Polio SIA review meeting