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Why vaccination is essential

The Lao government plans to vaccinate 3.7 million people, equal to 50 percent of the population, by the end of this year.
The vaccination rollout will be accelerated because the government understands that this is the best way to cut the chain of infection.
However, the vaccination programme has not progressed as anticipated in some provinces because many people in virus-free regions are reluctant to be immunised.
Deputy Director General of the Department of Communicable Disease Control under the Ministry of Health, Dr Sisavath Southanilaxay, has blamed fake news circulated on social media, which distorted the facts concerning the importance of vaccination.
As of June 3, a total of 647,311 people had received a first dose of a Covid vaccine and 283,474 people had been given both doses. But this is less than 10 percent of the population.
Vientiane authorities have done a great job in administering vaccines to almost 200,000 people, but a lot more work must be done in the provinces if Laos wants to achieve its vaccination goal by the end of this year.
Last week the government extended the lockdown for another 15 days until June 19. This was the third extension in addition to the lockdown that occurred last year, while some restrictions have been lifted to minimise the economic impacts of the virus outbreak.
However, the main item in the notice issued by the Prime Minister’s Office that touched my heart concerns vaccination.
The notice stated that air and road passenger transport between Vientiane and the provinces is now permitted. Passengers who have had two doses of a Covid-19 vaccine, at least one month ago, no longer have to spend 14 days in quarantine.
This is a praiseworthy attempt to encourage people who have not yet been immunised to go along to a vaccination centre and roll up their sleeves.
But this begs the question: Will bus operators and drivers be honest and accept only passengers who have been vaccinated?
The Southern Bus Station announced on the morning of June 5 that bus services would resume but revoked the statement later that day, saying that most people who turned up to catch buses had not had two doses of a vaccine.
This reflects the role and responsibility of the bus station to comply with the government’s guidelines. Nevertheless the authorities will have to strictly enforce the rules on passenger transport services and penalise those who fail to comply.
Last month, Vientiane’s Vehicle Control Unit under the Ministry of Public Works and Transport issued a notice warning that they would not provide services, including the issuing of driving licences and mechanical checks of vehicles, for people who had not been vaccinated.
This decision has been praised by members of the public, as it sets a good example for other public and private entities and may encourage them to do the same.
Getting vaccinated is also essential for people who want to travel abroad because it is a requirement of many destination countries.
Last month, countries in the European Union agreed to open their doors to vaccinated foreigners ahead of the summer tourist season.
The easing of travel restrictions enables non-EU citizens to travel to Europe and enjoy a holiday there.
Meanwhile in Kuwait, unvaccinated citizens are barred from travelling overseas, except those who are exempt from immunisation. Therefore, vaccination is not only a requirement on the part of destination countries but is also a prerequisite by some tourist-sending nations to contain the spread of the virus.
The United Arab Emirates, Israel and Bahrain have become world leaders in inoculating their citizens against Covid-19. As a result of large-scale vaccination, people in these countries are increasingly living life as normal.
In Laos, it’s important for public and private bodies to work together to encourage more people to get vaccinated and to make people realise it’s their duty to help control the spread of the virus.
Government employees and those working in state enterprises can act as role models by getting vaccinated and motivating others to follow suit.
It’s also essential for village authorities to support the vaccination drive by making a list of people who have not been immunised and trying to persuade them to get a jab.
The government is still struggling to keep the virus in check as more cases are reported daily. As of June 6, the total number of Covid-19 cases since March last year stood at 1,970.
Laos is at high risk of a major outbreak because of the increasing infection rate in neighbouring countries.
It’s vital that many more Lao people get vaccinated and adapt to the new normal by always wearing a face mask when going out, using hand sanitiser, and following the social distancing rules. In Europe, no one can enter a shop, restaurant or office without wearing a face mask.
In conclusion, vaccination is the best way for Laos to overcome the Covid-19 crisis.

By Somsack Pongkhao
(Latest Update June 9, 2021)

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