The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is looking to facilitate the vaccination of at least 70 per cent of the collective population of Latin American and Caribbean member countries against the coronavirus (COVID-19) by mid-2022.
Director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, who notes that more than 60 per cent of people in these states have been fully immunised, says PAHO’s Revolving Fund will shortly reach the milestone of delivering 100 million doses of vaccines to 33 countries.
“As more vaccines become available, we encourage those who haven’t been vaccinated to please do so,” Dr. Etienne added.
She was speaking during PAHO’s recent weekly COVID-19 digital media briefing.
Meanwhile, PAHO Assistant Director, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa da Silva Jr., said the progress in COVID-19 vaccinations has been achieved through efforts by individual countries to acquire doses; bilateral agreements between countries and manufacturers or other suppliers; donations from several countries, including the United States of America (USA), Canada, and Spain; and the World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility.
However, Dr. Barbosa said a breakdown of the vaccination statistics shows that only four member countries have, to date, vaccinated more than 75 per cent of their populations – Chile, Cuba, Panama, and Paraguay.
Additionally, he said 10 have yet to reach the 40 per cent target that the WHO had set for countries to achieve by the end of 2021, while only one country remains to get to the minimum 20 per cent goal, covering health workers and the most vulnerable, including the elderly and persons with underlying health conditions.
While noting that vaccine access varies in each country, Dr. Barbosa maintained that it was imperative that they acquire adequate doses to immunise at least 70 per cent of their populations.
The Assistant Director said in light of the high transmissibility of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, “it’s important to guarantee that all countries have access to [doses to] vaccinate [their populations] equitably”.
“When we [PAHO] support countries to develop vaccination plans, it’s because vaccines need to be used according to priorities,” Dr. Barbosa added.
Meanwhile, Dr. Etienne, who emphasised that COVID-19 remains a “serious threat”, said the “rapidly evolving” situation with the pandemic “means that we must [also] preserve, for now, the discipline of the important public health and social measures which have helped limit transmission”.
“Be assured that this pandemic will come to an end sometime. How soon and in what mode will depend, in large part, on each of us doing our part to limit transmission,” the Director said.
Dr. Etienne added that she is hopeful and optimistic that positive outcomes will be achieved this year.
She underscored, however, that “slowing the spread of COVID will require every tool in our arsenal – vaccines, physical distancing, mask wearing, avoiding large gatherings, and testing”.
“We need to rely on all of these measures to continue to protect ourselves and each other against this virus,” the Director further stated.