EU support highlights youth perspectives on COVID-19, vaccination

While young people in the Lao PDR have a strong understanding of COVID-19 symptoms and health-protecting behaviours, some do not believe COVID-19 is deadly, a recent European Union (EU)-supported survey by the Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization has shown.

Research showed strong knowledge of COVID-19 among young people – with almost all knowing to isolate at home if they had symptoms, and most being able to identify common COVID-19 symptoms.

“These findings serve as a reminder that none of us can be complacent against COVID-19,” said Dr Phonepaseuth Ounaphom, Director General, Department of Hygiene and Health Promotion, Ministry of Health. “While the threat of the pandemic has reduced, COVID-19 is still in our community, can still spread, and can still make you sick.”

“Additionally, we continue to risk spreading the virus to those who are not fully protected, having not had their vaccine and a booster. For the elderly or people with serious medical conditions, COVID-19 can still be fatal if not vaccinated. If you are feeling unwell and need to seek medical attention, contact a health facility.”

Currently, 75 per cent of people have completed the COVID-19 vaccine primary series. However, only one in four of the elderly population, who are at the highest risk for COVID-19, have received their COVID-19 booster.

The assessment explored more than 200 young people’s opinions on COVID-19 and vaccination. Research took place in Vientiane, and Xieng Khuang, Savannakhet and Khammuan Provinces.

Also positively, most young people were willing to get a COVID-19 booster, however, awareness regarding booster doses and their benefits were lower than the original COVID-19 vaccine. Reasons for not getting vaccinated were evenly divided between people ‘mainly staying at home’, and concerns regarding their existing health conditions, or side effects.

“The assessment provides vital perspectives on health, and helps guide significant ongoing efforts by the Ministry of Health, steadfast development partners like the EU, and others, to close the gap with COVID-19 vaccination,” said WHO’s Vaccination Programme Team Leader Nyambat Batmunkh.

“It also serves as a valuable reminder to all of us in the health sector – we must continue our efforts to educate and reach the unreached; we are not safe until everyone is safe.”

The survey carried out focus-group discussions in numerous communities, interviewing a diverse group of 15-29-year-old students, teachers, government staff, farmers and other workers, healthcare professionals and police officers.

“The EU is committed to protecting health in the Lao PDR, and helping the nation build back better following COVID-19. This research represents a small but important piece of the work to protect communities, and better inform the ongoing response to the pandemic,” said EU Ambassador Ina Marciulionyte.

This initiative is part of wider collaboration between the EU and WHO to support health in the Lao PDR. This includes COVID-19- activities to improve health and wellbeing for people and communities, including support for laboratories and disease surveillance, health emergency response, improvements in clinical management, infection prevention and control, improving water, sanitation and hygiene, and logistics strengthening.

Source: Lao News Agency

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