The first consignment of 132,000 AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines from the multilateral COVAX Facility have been delivered to the Lao PDR in the morning of 20 March. This delivery is part of a first wave of arrival that will continue in the coming months and will allow Laos to roll out the vaccination campaign prioritising the most vulnerable groups first. Global vaccination is a step towards the eradication of the Covid-19 pandemic. This batch of AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines is the first of the total of 480,000 doses being planned for delivery to Lao PDR via the COVAX initiative this year to cover about 20 percent of the total population.
“I would like to extend my warmest gratitude to the COVAX facility and our partners, Gavi, UNICEF and WHO, for their tremendous and valuable support in procuring this latest batch of COVID-19 vaccines. With the arrival of this shipment of vaccines, Lao PDR takes another step forward in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic,” remarked H.E. Associate Professor Dr. Bounkong Syhavong, Minister of Health.
The EU is glad to be part of the multilateral efforts, bringing together the international donor community and working in partnership with UNICEF and WHO, to fight the COVID-19. No one is safe until everyone is safe. All countries of the world have to have equal and fair access to safe and effective vaccines to tackle the destructive impact of COVID-19. The EU and its Member States are one of the lead donors in this unprecedented global effort. Acting together as ‘Team Europe’, we have invested in the research and production of the COVID-19 vaccines and contributed USD 2.6 billion to the COVAX Facility, including USD 1.2 billion from the EU to ensure that the vaccines reach those most in need" said the EU Ambassador to Laos Ms Ina Marčiulionytė.
According the country’s National Deployment and Vaccination Plan (NVDP), this initial batch of AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines will be used by the Government of Lao PDR to first immunise priority groups in the country who are at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19 and those who are most likely to develop severe symptoms from infection. This includes frontline healthcare workers, older adults above the age of 60 and people with underlying health conditions. Some essential workers will also be prioritised based on the nature of the job and high-risk of exposure to COVID-19 such as workers at points of entry and in quarantine centres.
What is COVAX?
Laos is the 4th country in the Southeast Asia that has already received COVID-19 the vaccines provided through the COVAX facility which aims to purchase 2 billion vaccine doses by the end of 2021, including at least 1.3 billion doses for low and middle-income country. To date, a total of 191 countries participate in the COVAX Facility. The COVAX Facility is a risk-sharing mechanism: it reduces the risk for manufacturers who invest without being sure about future demand, and it reduces the risk that countries would fail to secure access to a viable vaccine.
Team Europe - the EU, its Member States and the European Investment Bank - is a leading donor to this multilateral initiative with over EUR 2.2 (USD 2.6 billion) contribution.
ASEAN countries are set to receive over 32 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in 2021 through the COVAX facility.
See more about COVAX: https://www.gavi.org/covax-facility(link is external)
EU and Team Europe support to Laos in fight against COVID-19
A joint Team Europe effort amounting to approximately USD 95 million of re-allocated and newly raised Covid-19 response funds has been mobilised since the breakout of the global pandemic in 2020 to help Laos fight the effects of the COVID-19.
On 17 March the EU launched a USD 3.3 million project on health system strengthening for COVID-19 preparedness and response in Laos. The project will be realised over the period of three years. Under the EU-WHO-MoH partnership it will aim to protect people’s health, especially for the most vulnerable, and to ensure their rights and access to health services by strengthening the health system. This is part of an EU-WHO partnership in the ASEAN region providing the total of USD 23.9 million under the “South East Asia Health Pandemic Response and Preparedness Project”.
EU Global Action to fight COVID-19
To comprehensively tackle the outbreak of COVID-19 and mitigate the effects of the crisis, the EU Union has launched its “Team Europe” package to support partner countries in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences. The objective of the “Team Europe” approach is to combine resources from the EU, its Member States, and financial institutions, in particular the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development. The overall figure of the “Team Europe” package reaches almost USD 45.9 billion, ranging from helping countries to strengthen their healthcare, water and sanitation systems to supporting the development of a fast and equitable access to safe, quality, effective and affordable tests, treatments and vaccines against coronavirus.
See more about the EU response to COVID-19 in the world: https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/FS_21_1021