KATHMANDU, JANUARY 14

Member countries in the World Health Organisation South-East Asia Region are gearing up for massive vaccination campaigns in a bid to end the COVID-19 pandemic.

The WHO South-East Asia Region has 11 member countries — Bangladesh, Bhutan, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, India, Indonesia, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Timor-Leste.

It has a regional office in each member country, with its regional office based in New Delhi.

“We are witnessing unprecedented efforts by member countries to protect their vulnerable population against COVID-19 with vaccines,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director, WHO South-East Asia, in a press release issued by the regional office today.

Indonesia rolled out COV- ID-19 vaccination yesterday, while preparations are in full swing in India for one of the world’s biggest vaccination programmes beginning January 16, and in other countries for their campaign in the coming months.

“Safe and effective vaccines can be a game changer if accessible across the world and to all vulnerable populations within the countries. Vaccines will help curtail the COVID-19 pandemic. However, they won’t solve everything by themselves as initially they are bound to be in limited supply,” the release read.

“As the COVID-19 crisis continues, we still need to continue to take all necessary measures — COVID appropriate behaviour by one and all — masks, hand hygiene, cough etiquette, physical distancing and core public health measures must be taken by the authorities. They must detect, test, trace, isolate and treat to prevent the virus from spreading and causing more disease and deaths,” it added.

Community engagement and participation – both for continued COVID-19 appropriate behaviour and vaccination – will be critical to curtail virus transmission.

According to the release, WHO continues to work with all countries for COVID-19 vaccination planning and roll out, to have a robust National Deployment and Vaccination Plan covering all elements of planning and management needed to deliver the vaccine.

The release further stated that the network of surveillance officers in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar and Nepal, which was the backbone of polio eradication programme, was now in the forefront supporting coordination, preparedness and roll out of COVID-19 vaccination down to the district level.

Bringing in best practices from polio eradication, WHO has supported countries in the region with development of operational guidelines and plans for COVID-19 vaccination; training of vaccinators; planning vaccine and logistics management; and monitoring key preparatory activities.