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Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Carissa F. Etienne.
Photo: Contributed - © PAHO/WHO

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has adapted a Readiness Assessment Tool, developed by the World Health Organization (WHO), which will be used to guide PAHO member countries’ preparations for the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine roll-out.

PAHO Director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, said activities to be covered under the facility include health workers’ engagement, regulatory mechanisms, communications and training, logistics and cold and supply chains; as well as the framework to ensure that these inputs can be mobilised quickly.

She noted that these activities are imperative in light of the fact that preparations for vaccine deployment “will take time and advanced planning”.

She was speaking during PAHO’s COVID-19 digital briefing on Wednesday (December 9).

Dr. Etienne informed that countries across the Americas have secured more than US$1 billion in down payments and financial guarantees to engage the WHO’s COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility to acquire doses of vaccines, when one is approved for distribution.

She indicated that PAHO has helped several countries across the region to navigate and meet the facility’s requirements, adding “we are focused on making sure that every country’s investment counts”.

“The Americas represent one-fifth of all COVAX participating countries and an estimated one-third of all vaccines that will be procured for self-financing countries via COVAX,” she noted.

Dr. Etienne said that PAHO is working to ensure that once vaccines are approved and available “countries are prepared to roll them out”.

“At first, we will not have enough doses to protect everyone, so the objective is to save lives, using the first deployment to reach those most vulnerable to develop severe forms of COVID-19,” she noted.

She pointed out that healthcare workers will likely be among the first to be vaccinated, adding that they will also play a key role in raising awareness about the importance of the vaccine.

Dr. Etienne said PAHO has also been supporting member states in developing their national vaccine plans.

“Each country must identify priority groups and adapt the communications campaigns and materials to meet their needs, including by working alongside community leaders to empower communities to seek vaccination,” she noted.

She advised that PAHO has developed a dashboard to keep track of the progress of countries.

“The dashboard, which is live and available for anyone to view, shows the number of countries that have completed, are working on, or have not yet started preparations,” she noted.

Since the start of the pandemic, the region of the Americas has recorded more than 28.5 million cases of COVID-19 and 753,000 deaths.

Dr. Etienne noted that while countries have been living with the virus for months, the region has, within recent weeks, been experiencing the highest levels of new cases since the start of the pandemic.

“We are hopeful that the COVID-19 vaccines, which will come to market soon, will help contain the pandemic,” she said.

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