Wed | Dec 8, 2021

PAHO calls for countries with extra vaccines to donate to region

Published:Saturday | May 1, 2021 | 10:54 AM
Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr Carissa F. Etienne. Etienne commended regional countries that have invested in cold chain equipment and capacity in anticipation of the arrival of COVID vaccines.

Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director, Dr Carissa Etienne, is calling for countries with extra doses of coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines to consider donating a “significant portion” to the Americas.

She said that “these life-saving doses are desperately needed and will be promptly used”.

Etienne, who was addressing PAHO's COVID-19 digital press briefing on Wednesday, said that “timing is critical” given the increasing incidence of COVID-19 variants.

She noted that the region has demonstrated that it can successfully distribute COVID-19 vaccines quickly and effectively “yet supplies are still far behind [hence] this region's urgent need for more doses”.

Information from PAHO indicates that 1.4 million new COVID-19 cases were reported in the Americas in the past week, while 36,000 people died of the disease.

One in four COVID deaths reported worldwide last week took place in the Americas.

Cases are increasing in countries such as Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, and Colombia, and in the Caribbean, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and The Bahamas are reporting surging infections, with Anguilla reporting more than 60 per cent of its total cases in the last seven days.

Etienne said that PAHO member countries are expected to receive their second shipments of vaccines procured through the COVAX facility in May and June.

She said that based on the COVAX's allocation criteria, deployment of the second supply of vaccines has commenced for nine regional countries.

Etienne noted that while doses remain limited, most countries should see a considerable increase in quantities over the initial shipments.

She indicated that more than 317 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have, to date, been administered in 49 member countries and territories.

Latin America and the Caribbean have received nearly seven million doses via the initial allotment from COVAX, with another 470,000 en route.

Etienne said that although vaccination plans differ in each country, most have done “a great job” in adhering to World Health Organization (WHO) and PAHO recommendations regarding prioritising early doses for health workers and others on the front lines and protecting the elderly and persons with underlying conditions, saving thousands of lives.

She noted that countries have prioritised safety by locating vaccination sites away from clinics and hospitals, organising drive-through sites, and hosting door-to-door campaigns to reduce the chance of transmission.

“Thanks to these efforts, our region has administered nearly every COVAX dose that it has received thus far,” she pointed out.

Etienne commended regional countries that have invested in cold chain equipment and capacity in anticipation of the arrival of COVID vaccines.

“Deliveries have been quickly put to use – even for vaccines requiring ultra-low refrigeration. As deliveries pick up pace, our cold chain and supply chains will be tested further… but they are ready for the challenge,” she said.

The PAHO director urged that while vaccination supplies remain limited, countries must continue with the “proven” public health measures to reduce deaths and protect health systems, including thoroughly washing and sanitising hands, wearing masks in public spaces, and maintaining physical distancing.

- JIS News

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