A nurse vaccinates the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) to a schoolgirl at a ceremony in Vientiane, Laos, Oct. 2, 2013. Laos became the first South East Asian nation to introduce pneumococcal vaccine and began a demonstration project for HPV vaccine at a ceremony in the nation's capital Vientiane Wednesday. (Xinhua/Peter Thomson)
VIENTIANE, Oct. 2 (Xinhua) -- Laos became the first South East Asian nation to introduce pneumococcal vaccine and began a demonstration project for HPV vaccine at a ceremony in the nation' s capital Vientiane Wednesday.
"Immunization is perhaps the best investment any country can make in the health and well-being of its children," Helen Evans, deputy CEO of GAVI alliance who supported the program, told Xinhua at the ceremony.
"It saves lives and gives children a healthy start in life. Healthy children can benefit from education and grow up to be healthy, productive adults. So it's not just for children and families, it's actually for the country as a whole for social and economic development," she said.
About 180,000 infants will receive the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV) and 13,000 girls will receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine over the next year.
Globally, pneumococcal disease kills half a million children under the age of five each year. In Laos, pneumonia accounts for 19 percent of the country's under-five child mortality, or approximately 2,800 children annually. The vaccine could prevent a significant proportion of these deaths.
Human papillomavirus causes cervical cancer which kills approximately 274,000 women every year and is predicted to kill up to 430,000 women per year by 2030 without intervention. More than 500 women get cervical cancer in Laos each year and more than half of them die.
The HPV vaccine prevents about 70 percent of cervical cancer. If the demonstration project is successful, GAVI is willing to support a national rollout of HPV vaccine.
"These vaccines are a critical part of our immunization efforts, " said Dr. Eksavang Vongvichit, health minister of Laos. "The immunization program is helping us to achieve the maternal and child health Millennium Development Goals, which are a priority for Lao PDR."