Lao PDR

Unequal access to Covid-19 vaccines

Humanity & Inclusion is working to reduce the impact of Covid-19 in Laos and recently published a survey on the obstacles people with disabilities face to receive vaccines.

Humanity & Inclusion teams interviewed 100 people with disabilities by telephone throughout May and June 2021. The survey participants live in the capital city of Vientiane within the Xamnua or Kaison districts.

"Our current projects show that people with disabilities always find it harder to access care," says Pilar Duat Llorens, director of Humanity & Inclusion's programs in the region. "As the survey we conducted in Laos a few months ago revealed, access to Covid-19 vaccination programs is no exception."

Among those interviewed, the survey revealed that:

  • Only 19% are vaccinated
  • 61% are worried by the unknown effects of the vaccine and feel they lack information how it may impact underlying medical conditions
  • 43% do not have enough information on where and how to be vaccinated
  • 55% say that if they had more information, they would be more motivated to get vaccinated
  • 73% say the biggest obstacles to vaccination are long lines and no priority lane for people with disabilities
  • Between 56% and 85% say they would get vaccinated if they had the opportunity to do so

Reducing the pandemic's impact

In the first six months of 2021, Humanity & Inclusion's teams in Laos:

  • Raised the awareness of 1,287 people, including 110 people with disabilities, on Covid-19 risks by displaying posters, organizing workshops and training sessions, and relaying prevention messages in the media and on social media in 21 villages in Houamoung
  • Distributed 1,466 protection kits containing thermometers, masks, face shields and protective suits in Savannakhet
  • Handed out 365 kits containing awareness-raising posters in Savannakhet, Houaphan and Houamoung
  • Repaired and maintained seven ambulances belonging to Vientiane Rescue 1623
  • Transported 460 Covid-19 patients in Vientiane
  • Adapted two of Humanity & Inclusion's vehicles to transport Covid-19 patients in Houaphan

"As a humanitarian organization, we need to help reduce the impact of Covid-19 in the countries where we work," Duat Llorens explains.

Protecting people with disabilities

People with disabilities have been disproportionately affected by the Covid-19 pandemic, especially since the virus has the potential to impact pre-existing conditions. Physical obstacles and discriminatory behavior can also limit access to high-demand public services.

"The pandemic affects everyone, but people with special needs are even more vulnerable," Duat Llorens says. "Many easy and reasonable adjustments can be made so everyone is included in the fight against Covid-19."

"The people organizing Covid-19 vaccination programs need to ensure everyone is included," she adds. "It is important to adapt communication campaigns by making new formats available and translating messages into sign language, for example. We also need to transport vulnerable individuals and provide appropriate support to people with special needs if they have to wait in line."