Vaccinations in rural Lao PDR

RESULTS Australia’s Global Health Consultant, Murray Proctor, is in Lao PDR on a Parliamentary delegation to explore what Australia’s aid program is achieving in terms of health outcomes in the country. With him are a number of Australian MPs and Senators, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) representatives, partners from the Global Poverty Project and the Pacific Friends of the Global Fund, and a media team from Channel 9. This is his blog post from day two. Check back for daily updates from the delegation.

Today we went to a regional hospital in northern Laos to see young kids receive their oral polio vaccination.

Australian members of Parliament turned out to be very good at getting vaccine drops into small mouths.  And Lao 4 year old  kids were amazing at sitting still through the welcoming speeches.

With the assistance of Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, Laos is moving to provide inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) next year, which is preferred by the WHO.

Laos has strongly embraced the benefit of increasing the vaccination of children. This makes sense as it protects them from a range of common diseases and of course also reduces the strain on an overloaded medical system.

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The Australian government’s contributions to Gavi will assist in making this transition to IPV and the other vaccines. Australia is currently Gavi’s ninth largest donor, representing 3.2 per cent of all donor pledges for the current 2011-15 financial period

At present, Laos either receives or is approved for support for Pentavalent vaccine, PCV, a pilot of the Australian-developed Human Papilloma Virus vaccine, and – in 2015-  Japanese Encephalitis vaccines. And of course IPV next year.

Discussions with health agencies including UNICEF and WHO on Monday reinforced to parliamentarians the importance of vaccinations, and the challenges in a country with such remote groups. Servicing some villages requires a 2 day hike by health providers.  As part of   its determination to improve health in the county areas, the Government of Laos is significantly increasing its own spending on health services.

It was also good to see clean new hospital buildings that had been built by Australia’s Save the Children organisation.

We also visited the LAOUXO project which works to remove the tragically massive number of bombs and cluster bomblets dropped on Laos in the 1960 and 70’s. Both of these organisations also get support from the Australian government for activities in Laos.

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