Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Carissa Etienne, says the entity has received major donor support for efforts to ensure that member countries have equitable access to safe and effective coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines when one is approved.
Among these, she said, is the Government of Canada, which has committed CA$255 million through the World Health Organization (WHO) Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator.
The Accelerator, which was launched in April, is a groundbreaking collaboration designed to expedite the development and production of, and equitable access to COVID-19 tests, treatments, and vaccines.
The money is intended to reinforce the supplies and systems needed to deploy vaccines and treatments against COVID-19 in developing and vulnerable countries, especially in Latin America and the Caribbean.
This may include training for front-line health workers on how to administer vaccines and treatments, the supply of syringes and critical personal protective equipment (PPE), and support for planning and executing mass vaccination campaigns.
The money is part of an overall CA$485 million in new aid support that was announced on Monday (December 14) by Canada’s Minister for International Development, Karina Gould, to help lower-income countries access the vital medical tools needed to target COVID-19 and end the pandemic.
The other CA$230 million will go towards ensuring that the most vulnerable persons to COVID-19 in the poorest countries can access life-saving antibody treatments to minimise deaths and severe illness, thereby relieving pressure on hospitals and health systems.
This is deemed critical, in light of the anticipated length of time it will take for the global supply of vaccines to scale up and for doses to reach the poorest nations.
Speaking during PAHO’s COVID-19 digital briefing on Wednesday (December 16), Dr. Etienne said the Canadian Government’s provision reflected the spirit of collaboration that has resonated across the region of the Americas, particularly since the emergence of COVID-19.
“We hope other countries will join Canada in its demonstration of solidarity and commitment to promoting equitable access to safe and effective COVID-19 tools,” the Director added.
Meanwhile, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), on Wednesday (December 16), announced that it will mobilise US$1billion to help Latin American and Caribbean countries to also acquire and distribute vaccines.
In a statement, the IDB indicated that the funds will complement US$1.2 billion in resources that the institution committed in 2020, as well as other funds programmed for 2021 to help countries save lives through public health measures such as more effective testing and tracing, and better clinical management of COVID-19 patients.
The IDB will support countries in three main areas – the purchase of vaccines through multilateral efforts, such as the WHO COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility; institutional strengthening to help countries develop effective vaccine deployment mechanisms; and investment to build immunisation capacity and finance operational costs.
IDB President, Mauricio Claver-Carone, said the expansion of support to the region also aims to ensure timely access by countries to safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines.
“The coming months will be critical to altering the course of the pandemic and supporting the recovery of our region… which is why we are being bold and proactive,” he added.
Dr. Etienne said other donors include the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, European Commission, United States Agency for International Development, World Food Programme, and Rockefeller Foundation, adding that “we are, indeed, grateful for their support”.
The region of the Americas has recorded nearly 31 million cases and almost 787,000 deaths, since the onset of COVID-19.
This represents approximately 50 per cent of global infections and deaths.