VIENTIANE, Feb. 21 (Xinhua) -- The Lao government has vowed to expedite a nationwide vaccination program for children aged 6 and over against COVID-19, starting on Monday.
The program is part of the government's efforts to ensure that people of all ethnic groups are immunized against COVID-19 and are protected against the Omicron variant in particular, as the variant is much more transmissible than the Delta variant, the local daily Vientiane Times reported on Monday.
Vaccinations will take place in the provinces of Huaphan, Xieng Khuang, Oudomxay, Savannakhet and Xaysomboun from Feb. 21 to March 4, according to a notice issued by the Prime Minister's Office.
In other provinces and the Lao capital Vientiane, vaccination rollout is scheduled for March 4 to 19. However, provinces that are ready can start inoculating children on Feb. 21.
After children in this age group have been vaccinated, health authorities will be instructed to consider the possibility of immunizing children aged 3-5, according to the notice.
The Ministry of Education and Sports has been instructed to work with relevant sectors to assess the number of children aged 6-11 and those aged 12 and over, with figures to be provided by public and private schools. These figures must be provided before the vaccination rollout begins.
Even though the number of COVID-19 infections is declining, the National Taskforce Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control remains on the alert for Omicron after nearly 30 people have tested positive for the variant in Laos.
Omicron has mostly been detected among people entering Laos from other countries, including Lao nationals returning from Thailand.
The government plans to vaccinate 80 percent of the population by the end of this year. Meanwhile, ministries, organizations, factories and local authorities have been told to carry out checks among their staff to identify those who are fully vaccinated, while those who are not will be encouraged to do so.
The Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism has been delegated to publicize the vaccination campaign to ensure that target groups and people of all social strata receive proper information and understand the situation, as well as play a part in the immunization process.
In the meantime, the Ministry of Health has been instructed to work with local authorities to prepare vaccines, equipment, financing and medical personnel to carry out the immunization program.
As of last Thursday, more than 4.8 million people, or 65.8 percent of the population, have received the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and more than 4.25 million, or 58 percent, have been fully vaccinated. ■