Health Ministry and UNICEF Survey Finds Nearly 100 Percent Vaccination in Tourism Zones

Tourism “green zones” in Vientiane Capital, Vientiane Province, and Luang Prabang Province have reached 99.67 percent vaccination rates, with residents displaying high levels of knowledge about COVID-19 prevention measures, according to findings from a survey by the Ministry of Health and UNICEF.

Deputy Minister of Health, Dr. Sanong Thongsana, and UNICEF Representative to Laos, Dr. Pia Rebello Britto, co-chaired a briefing for the media yesterday on the results of a survey on COVID-19 vaccination coverage in designated tourism green zones, which include Vientiane Capital, Vientiane Province, and Luang Prabang Province.

The survey, which was conducted between January and March 2022, reveals that vaccination coverage in so-called “green travel zones” is high, reaching a 99.67 percent coverage rate.

Health Ministry and UNICEF Survey Finds Nearly 100 Percent Vaccination in Tourism Zones
Health Ministry and UNICEF Survey Finds Nearly 100 Percent Vaccination in Tourism Zones.

Participants of the survey also displayed sufficient preventive knowledge of COVID-19, with the common preventive practices against COVID-19 mentioned including avoiding shaking hands (85 percent), wearing a mask (58.9 percent), washing hands more often (18.2 percent), and avoiding alcohol consumption (16.5 percent).

The survey also reveals the key sources of information on COVID-19 for the Lao people, with the majority (85 percent) of participants saying that they receive this information primarily through Facebook; 78.7 percent receive COVID-19 messages from their workplace, and 41.3 percent get their news from village loudspeakers.

“Laos’ economic recovery is dependent on policies that support businesses and households to adapt to the new normal. To achieve this, COVID-19 vaccination coverage must be achieved at 100 percent. Today’s presentation of the survey results suggests that we are on the right track in reaching our objective and the path towards the recovery and reopening of the country,” stated Deputy Minister Sanong.

The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected social and economic life in Laos and has brought the country’s tourism sector to a near-complete standstill after decades of extraordinary growth.

Globally, international tourist arrivals fell to levels not seen since 1990.

The importance of tourism in Laos goes beyond the country’s economy. The sector is also a key pillar of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with a unique ability to contribute to most – if not all – of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, including providing opportunities for children, youth, women, and communities, and helping preserve and promote natural and cultural heritage.

Results from Green Zone Travel vaccination survey.
Results from Green Zone Travel vaccination survey.

Reopening the country will help revive the tourism sector and hospitality industry as a source of income for Laos. However, to achieve this, maximum levels of COVID-19 vaccination services coverage must be achieved and preventive measures, especially in green travel zones, must be advocated.

“The survey results demonstrate the success of the Vaccinate Laos campaign and confirms that the government’s strategies and investments are working. Furthermore, this success would not have been possible without the support of development partners, especially through their contribution of vaccines via the COVAX Facility and support on the communication campaign on vaccination in all 18 provinces of Lao PDR,” stated UNICEF Representative, Dr. Pia Rebello Britto.

“Our meeting today further coincides with World Immunization Week, which is celebrated in the last week of every April and is aimed at highlighting the life-saving power of vaccines. Thus, I would like to take this opportunity to remind us not only of the importance COVID-19 vaccination but also of childhood immunization in saving lives. We must ensure that our efforts in vaccinating the population against COVID-19 should not come at the expense of routine childhood immunization,” she added.

The government of Laos reopened the country to vaccinated tourists under its new “Lao Travel Green Zone” plan in January.

However, entry restrictions including pre-departure tests, on-arrival tests, and quarantine for travelers have meant few tourists have arrived under the scheme.

After agreeing in principle to a full reopening, the Government of Laos is expected to announce the easing of restrictions for arrivals at the end of the month or in early June.