Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, is encouraging citizens of member states to get vaccinated against the coronavirus (COVID-19), once doses approved for distribution by the World Health Organization (WHO) are delivered to their countries.
Approximately two billion doses of vaccines are being procured from manufacturers for initial deployment through WHO’s COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility, and delivery to member countries in the Americas is expected to commence shortly.
The Pfizer Inc. and AstraZeneca vaccines have been approved for distribution under the Facility.
Speaking during PAHO’s COVID-19 digital briefing on Thursday (February 24), Dr. Etienne assured that the vaccines being provided “are safe and effective”.
“Every vaccine distributed by COVAX has undergone a thorough evaluation by WHO and many by stringent national regulatory authorities, which review data from every step of the developmental process. This approval process is complex and rigorous, so that citizens can trust their safety and efficacy,” she noted.
The Director noted that while each vaccine is unique, those authorised for use by WHO and delivered through the COVAX Facility “have proven to dramatically reduce the chances of severe COVID infections”.
“So that means people who take them will be safer and, in turn, keep our communities protected as our health systems care for fewer COVID patients. So please, when it is your turn, we encourage you to get vaccinated,” she emphasised.
Dr. Etienne said the region has collectively witnessed the “overwhelming positive impact” of vaccines on patients and communities.
She pointed out that through the power of vaccines, the region of the Americas has eliminated small pox, polio, Rubella, measles, and congenital tetanus.
“With COVID-19, it is no different. Safe and effective vaccines will help us turn the tide of this pandemic… but only if we can reach those most vulnerable, no matter where they live or who they are,” the Director said.
She noted that even with the vaccines, countries have to maintain the proven COVID-19 health measures of testing, contact tracing, quarantining, physical distancing, hand hygiene, and the wearing of masks in public “until the pandemic recedes”.