Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, says 540 million additional doses of coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines are required to ensure that all member countries can inoculate at least 60 per cent of their populations.
Speaking during PAHO’s COVID-19 digital briefing on Wednesday (September 1), Dr. Etienne said more than one-third of countries in the Americas have yet to vaccinate 20 per cent of their populations, noting that, in some places, “coverage is much lower”.
Dr. Etienne said the Americas remain disproportionately impacted by the pandemic, noting that the region has four of the 10 countries with the highest number of cumulative cases and nearly one-third of COVID-related deaths globally.
“Despite this disproportionate impact, three-fourths of people in Latin America and the Caribbean have not yet been fully immunised and, for many, vaccines remain months away. So, we must expand vaccine access in our region, especially in places that are lagging,” she added.
Dr. Etienne maintained that consequent on delays in vaccine production, donations “remain the best and fastest way” to deliver doses to more people in the region.
“We urge countries around the world with excess doses to quickly share these with our region, where they will have life-saving impact,” she implored.
The Director reminded member countries that the best way to protect against variants of concern, like the Delta variant, “is to ensure that more people, everywhere, are fully vaccinated”.
“Countries should prioritise doses for the most vulnerable, like the elderly, health workers, and those living with pre-existing conditions. Too many of these vulnerable groups have yet to be vaccinated, even as vaccination campaigns are reaching others who are less at-risk,” she pointed out.
In this regard, Dr. Etienne urged regional states to “follow the science”, by designing campaigns that protect the most vulnerable and s public health measures that can bring down transmission.
Additionally, she said countries must ensure that the vaccines received are administered quickly and that, as more and larger shipments are received, they take steps to institute the requisite logistical and cold chain systems to support the delivery of doses.