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    The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) will be lobbying several financial institutions to support capacity strengthening of member countries to store coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines requiring special arrangements, once these have been approved for distribution.

    This was stated by Assistant Director for PAHO, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, during the entity’s COVID-19 digital briefing on Wednesday (November 11).

    Dr. Barbosa said two of the 10 vaccines currently undergoing phase-three clinical trials have been developed using genetic material from the virus.

    He explained that these require storage at -70 degrees Celsius/-103 degrees Fahrenheit while pointing out that the other eight vaccines “can be handled in the current cold-chain systems we have in the various countries”.

    “So the countries, if they decide to use those vaccines, will need to prepare… to introduce this type of change and acquire new storage units. So, we are in the process of having [discussions] with some of the financial institutions, to strengthen the cold-chain systems in the countries,” the Assistant Director added.

    Dr. Barbosa said information emerging that the producers of COVID-19 vaccines in phase-three clinical trials are close to concluding their engagements “is very good news”.

    “I think that it brings hope for not only countries in the Americas but for the whole world,” he said.

    “I’d like to highlight, however, that we still don’t have a vaccine. So [it’s imperative to maintain] the public health safeguard measures that have being adopted at the national and local levels, and also [by] individuals, to wear masks and maintain physical distance of six feet. These measures can protect you and your families from getting COVID-19,” he emphasised.

    Dr. Barbosa reiterated that COVID-19 vaccine development entails a full review of the outcomes, producing and deploying them and, thereafter, countries undergoing preparations to administer them.

    “So, it’s not easy to establish a date [when a vaccine will be approved for distribution and administration]. But, hopefully, we will have a vaccine available in the first [quarter] of 2021,” he further said.

    Dr. Barbosa said until then, “countries will be taking measures to strengthen, replace [and] purchase new mechanisms and equipment to [be able to] store and transport those vaccines”.

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