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AdvocacyMarch 22, 2018

Lessons Learned from Immunizing Children in Laos

The Shot@Life campaign recently traveled to Laos with employees from Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Limited, a partner in the fight against measles. The trip provided the opportunity to see the incredible work being done by the National Immunization Program, with the support of our partners at the UN.

Despite facing numerous infrastructure and communication barriers, Laos has made tremendous progress in expanding access to vaccines for children across the country. Laos has vaccinated 85% of its population against most routine immunizations, up from 65% in 2007, and is committed to reaching all children.

During our visits to local hospitals and healthcare centers, we saw the power of vaccines and the power of people. Vaccines are one of the safest, most cost-effective tools to save the lives of children around the world, but we can’t stop there. The UN, the National Immunization Program, local healthcare workers, and community leaders are all critical to ensuring the vaccines reach the children. These individuals work tirelessly to educate parents and communities on the importance of vaccinating children, as well as ensuring the proper transportation and safe delivery of vaccines across the country.

While our trip demonstrated the exciting opportunities provided by vaccines, it also highlighted the challenges still facing Laos to immunize children. More than two-thirds of Laos is mountainous, which can create difficulties in reaching remote areas, particularly during the rainy season. Also, with over 49 ethnicities and 200 dialects, it can be very challenging to ensure messages are reaching all communities. Lastly, infrastructure and resources remain significant barriers. 60% of all immunization services in Laos happen through outreach programs due to limited healthcare facilities. This outreach requires going out to local communities or door to door to administer vaccines, which is costly and takes a high level of coordination.

These challenges are not unique to Laos. Many countries around the world face similar barriers to immunizing children. In fact, 1 in 5 children globally lacks access to vaccines. It is critical that the world come together to help reduce the 1.5 million childhood deaths from vaccine-preventable diseases each year. Join us, like those at Takeda, in helping ensure every child has a shot at a happy and healthy life.

To see more photos from our trip, please view the Flickr album here.

Sarah Ristau