Laos has experienced significant rains and flooding in recent years, especially in the Sanamxay district. As water levels increase, cholera, a devastating intestinal ailment, is feared.

Concerned Sanamxay resident Chanyalath Rocha says, “Not only do we have to deal with floods, but now cholera is a worry. We want the government to act.”

Prime Minister Phankham Viphavanh and Minister of Health Dr. Bounfeng Phoummalaysith met to discuss what the country is doing to contain and even eliminate the epidemic before it escalates. This includes mobilising a Gavi contribution of oral cholera vaccines (OCV).

“Gavi provided oral cholera vaccinations. I told the health ministry to act quickly before the disease spreads. The Prime Minister urged volunteers, nurses, and health department workers to help with the initiative.

Since 2013, Gavi has maintained an emergency OCV stockpile for countries in need. Since then, more than 35 million doses have been supplied to cholera hotspots, helping to prevent the spread of a disease that kills 21,000 to 143,000 people annually worldwide.

Stockpile access is limited. The vaccination must reach high-risk people to work.

In southern Laos, vaccination dosages meant rollout preparations needed to be stepped up: volunteers needed training, data on target populations and vaccine inventories needed compiling, transport and vaccine distribution gear needed readying, and flood-hit areas needed awareness raised.

“Rain hinders mobility.” “The roads are muddy, so vaccine-carrying vehicles often get stuck,” says nurse Soumly Oum.

The health ministry has deployed big trucks with massive wheels to help cars manage the muddy roads. Vaccines are stored precisely in refrigeration to avoid deteriorating and cracking.

“The chief nurse and I have been busy the previous few weeks setting up. This immunisation effort is admirable despite its challenges. Viphavanh Solano, a volunteer clinician, agrees.

Nurse Thongvanh Xayaseng, head of the medical team, says, “My team and I came prepared for this exercise.” We initially conveyed the immunisation drive’s word via the media and door-to-door. Many parents are attending. We visit those who can’t come to us. Thanks to Gavi’s funding, we may prevent cholera epidemics.”

We both got the cholera vaccine. Oral administration. Few drops of medication seem ineffective. Moukdavanh Keobounphanh says, “My child and I are safe.”

“My son had cholera.” His illness weakened him. Despite terrible conditions, I’m delighted the government sent oral immunizations. We’ve had enough. Phouma Sanghiemkham is cholera-immune.

The government is also committed to increasing water cleanliness and sanitization, the best way to prevent cholera epidemics, and urges everyone to follow hygienic practises.

“Children will be immune to cholera through immunisation. Vaccine delivery over inaccessible roads has been the hardest. The population grew, especially with children. Vaccination has spared many deaths, says Xayaseng.

With the use of OCVs, cholera has been contained.

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