Opening remarks of Dr Juliet Fleischl on the Launch of the Japanese Encephalitis Campaign

Dr Juliet Fleischl
WHO Representative to the Lao People’s Democratic Republic
1 April 2015, National Cultural Hall, Vientiane

His Excellency, Deputy Prime Minister of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Dr Phankham Viphavanh,
Honourable Minister of Health, Dr Eksavang Vongvichit;
Vice-Minister of Health representing the National Commission of Mother and Child Health, Dr Inlavanh Keobounphan;
Esteemed Governor of Vientiane Capital, Dr. Sinlavong Khoutphaithoun
Deputy CEO of GAVI, Anuradha Gupta;
UNICEF Representative to Lao PDR, Hongwei Gao;
Distinguished guests and colleagues; Members of Media; Ladies and Gentlemen
Good morning.

I am honoured to be here on behalf of the World Health Organization to welcome you to this very special occasion; the launch of the Japanese Encephalitis campaign for the Central and southern regions in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.

Today marks yet another milestone in health; for the people of Lao PDR. Immunization is the most effective Japanese Encephalitis control strategy. We should applaud the Government of Lao PDR to have introduced the Japanese Encephalitis vaccine in the country.

I am delighted to learn that the Government of Lao People's Democratic Republic with support from the Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance along with the technical support from the World Health Organization, PATH and UNICEF will conduct this immunization campaign this month that will target children aged 1 to 14 years of age.

Countries must maintain high population immunity, strong disease surveillance to minimize the risk and consequences of any re-infection. We need to think of innovative ways to reach out to the difficult-to-reach pockets in the country in order to ensure equity in service delivery.

Lao PDR has demonstrated to the global community how establishing Japanese Encephalitis surveillance helps to better understand the burden and geographic extent of the disease which can be used for planning of effective control measures in the country. The JE vaccine campaign conducted in Northern Provinces of Lao PDR in 2013 is an example to the use of this evidence.

Japanese Encephalitis is a significant public health threat, which accounts for either child mortality or long-term neuropsychological sequelae for the survivors. An approximately 68,000 JE cases occur annually in the WHO Western Pacific Region.

The presence of all of us here today reiterates the growing international attention to this disease. We would like to thank the Gavi Alliance for extending their support to JE vaccine campaign in Lao PDR.

It is important that we make use of these new vaccine introductions to strengthen the routine immunization activities in the country. In order to reach all targeted children in the country, there are many challenges we have to overcome. We must reach villages that do not have roads and reach families who spend considerable time working in the fields. We need to educate families so they understand and can demand better health services and ensure that all their children are fully vaccinated.

I would like to assure His Excellency, that WHO stands committed, together with all our partners gathered here to support you to get fully on-track and overcome the barriers to achieving the Millennium Development Goals by committing both human and financial resources necessary to achieve the high immunization coverage and timely surveillance needed to accelerate the control of Japanese encephalitis and other vaccine preventable diseases.

As this campaign begins in targeted provinces, we would like to take this opportunity to encourage all parents of young children to participate in the campaign.

I would also like to take this opportunity to wish you all in advance, a happy and prosperous Pimai.

Thank you.