Laos has achieved good results in its vaccination campaign for polio prevention in all targeted provinces this year but there are still challenges and lessons which can be learned to improve coverage in the next round.
Director of the National Centre for Laboratory and Epidemiology, Dr Phengta Vongphrachanh spoke with Vientiane Times about the issue last week, after a workshop analysing the success of an advocacy event on the polio outbreak response.
Dr Phengta said the government has a target that at least 90 percent of all children under the age of 15 are vaccinated according to the plan. There are an estimated 2.4 million children under the age of 15 in the target provinces throughout the country.
At present, the concerned sectors have achieved success and met 95 percent of the plan. All children in the target provinces of the country have access to vaccines to further boost their immunity against polio under the government’s policy to provide effective health services.
Dr Phengta said although they cannot say this disease has disappeared from Laos the government has achieved good success. It is currently advising the Ministry of Health in cooperation with local administrations to continue to advocate against polio and further boost immunity against the deadly disease in children under the age of 15 nationwide.
“I think that the staff have been working very hard over the past months to contain the outbreak with support from the WHO, UNICEF and the USCDC,” he noted.
The provincial authorities joined with district commissions of mother and child units and immunisation teams in the field to provide information about the need to have children vaccinated and support the field activities, Dr Phengta added.
As part of the project, provincial authorities are distributing information to local people on the dangers of polio. Communication strategies will be two-tiered. At the national and provincial level, mass media (television, radio and newspapers) will share information on the current polio outbreak and upcoming vaccination campaign.
At the community level, village heads, mass organisations, Mother and Child Health Committees, village elders and religious leaders will participate in briefing sessions on polio, to help mobilise support before and during the campaign,he added.
According to the Ministry of Health, Laos was declared polio free in 2000, joining all the other countries that had successfully wiped out polio. But in October of this year, a series of laboratory tests confirmed that polio was back. Already, two children have died in Borikhamxay province from the virus.
Source: Vientiane Times