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Covid-19: unequal access to vaccines


Health | Laos | PUBLISHED ON January 4th 2022
Health staff at a vaccination centre in a district of Laos.

Health staff at a vaccination centre in a district of Laos. | © Vilaysack XAYSANA / HI

HI is working to reduce the impact of Covid-19 in Laos and recently published a survey on the obstacles to vaccination faced by people with disabilities.

Unprecedented vaccine access survey

HI recently carried out a survey on access to vaccination programmes by people with disabilities in Laos. HI’s teams interviewed some one hundred people with disabilities by telephone from May to June 2021 in the districts of Xamnua and Kaison and in the capital Vientiane.

“Our current projects show that people with disabilities always find it harder to access care. As the survey we conducted in Laos a few months ago revealed, access to Covid-19 vaccination programmes is no exception,” says Pilar Duat Llorens, the director of HI’s programmes in the region.

The survey revealed that:

  • Only 19% of people asked have been vaccinated
  • 61% are worried by the unknown effects of the vaccines and regret the lack of information on its impact on underlying medical conditions
  • 73% say the biggest obstacles to vaccination are long queues and no priority lane for people with disabilities
  • 43% do not have enough information on where and how they will be vaccinated
  • 55% say that if they had more information on vaccines, they would be more motivated to get vaccinated
  • Between 56% and 85% say they would get vaccinated if they had the opportunity.

Reducing the impact of the pandemic

“As a humanitarian organisation, we need to help reduce the impact of Covid-19 in the countries where we work,” explains Pilar Duat Llorens. In Laos between January and June 2021, HI:

  • Raised the awareness of 1,287 people, including 110 people with disabilities, on Covid-19 risks by displaying posters, organising workshops and training sessions, and relaying prevention messages in the media and on social media in 21 villages in the district of Houamoung
  • Distributed 1,466 protection kits containing thermometers, masks, face shields and protective suits in Savannakhet
  • Handed out 365 kits containing awareness-raising posters in the districts of Savannakhet, Houaphan and Houamoung
  • Transported 460 Covid-19 patients in Vientiane Capital
  • Repaired and maintained 7 ambulances belonging to Vientiane Rescue 1623 and made available two of HI’s vehicles adapted to the transport of contaminated patients in the province of Houaphan.

Straightforward adjustments to protect vulnerable people

People with disabilities have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic, especially since the virus has the potential to impact pre-existing conditions. Physical obstacles and discriminatory behaviour can also limit access to high-demand public services.

“The pandemic affects everyone, but people with special needs are even more vulnerable. Many easy and reasonable adjustments can be made so everyone is included in the fight against Covid-19,” says Pilar Duat Llorens.

“The people organising Covid-19 vaccination programmes need to ensure everyone is included,” she adds. “It is important to adapt communication campaigns by making new formats available and translating messages into sign language, for example. We also need to transport vulnerable individuals and provide appropriate support to people with special needs if they have to queue.” 

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