WASHINGTON, D.C. (Thursday, November 4, 2021) — The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has reported that 1.2 billion doses of coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines have, to date, been administered in member countries.
Assistant Director, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa da Silva Jr., announced that consequent to this, 46 percent of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean had been fully vaccinated.
He noted that at least 32 countries have already reached the World Health Organization’s (WHO) target of 40 percent vaccination coverage, adding that several more are on track to reach, or surpass, this figure by year-end.
“This progress is encouraging but not surprising, thanks to our region’s strong immunization systems,” Dr. Barbosa added, during PAHO’s COVID-19 digital media briefing, yesterday.
Dr. Barbosa said, however, that several regional countries are still experiencing challenges with their vaccination campaigns, noting that 19 remain below the 40 percent target.
He advised that PAHO is working closely with these countries, among them Jamaica, Haiti, Nicaragua, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Guatemala, which he pointed out, “are still below 20 percent coverage”.
Noting that vaccine inequity “remains the biggest barrier to reaching our coverage targets”, Dr. Barbosa said the WHO’s COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility, with the support of PAHO’s Revolving Fund, has delivered 64.3 million doses across the region.
He indicated that over 19 million doses, representing approximately 30 percent of the vaccines, were donated by the governments of the United States, Canada, and Spain, among others.
“We are thankful for these donations, which have improved the situation in the Americas. We continue to expect allocations of vaccines from COVAX to accelerate in the coming weeks,” the Assistant Director further stated.
Against this background, Dr. Barbosa encouraged countries to monitor their absorptive capacity and continue to scale-up vaccination campaigns.
“PAHO is providing technical cooperation to our member states, in all relevant aspects, to guarantee successful vaccination,” he informed.
These inputs, Dr. Barbosa further indicated, cover communication strategies, training health care workers, adopting new strategies to facilitate the access of the population, and cold chain capacity.
“We are also supporting countries to overcome supply problems with syringes and diluents. That means we must make investments in immunization capacity and staffing a top priority. Our investments today, will pave the way for a strong recovery after the pandemic,” he emphasised.
Also PAHO member countries, including several Caribbean states, have been recording declines in coronavirus (COVID-19) infections and deaths.
The Assistant Director said that more than 745,000 new infections and just over 18,000 deaths were reported, across North and Latin America and the Caribbean during the last week.
“This is the eighth consecutive week that overall cases have declined in the region,” he noted.
Dr. Barbosa indicated that, in addition to the fall in infections and deaths, Canada and the United States of America (USA) recorded notable decreases in hospitalisations.
Additionally, he said that similar declines have been occurring, across most Central American countries, noting that following weeks of persistent outbreaks in Belize, that nation recorded a nearly 20 percent decrease in confirmed cases and 60 percent reduction in deaths.
Dr. Barbosa further advised that the same trends are present in much of South America, “save for a few exceptions that we are monitoring closely”, while adding that cases and deaths are falling or remaining stable throughout a significant portion of the Caribbean.
He pointed out, however, that Barbados continues to report its highest number of COVID-related infections and deaths since the start of the pandemic, “and there are concerning shortages of hospital capacity in the Dominican Republic, and Trinidad and Tobago”.
“The progress in our region is not reason to become complacent or discontinue the public health measures that help keep us safe – quite the opposite. The decline in cases and deaths show that our approach [through public health measures and vaccinations] is working.
“The pandemic is still with us; we cannot fall into a false sense of security that the COVID-19 pandemic is over. It is critical for all of us to stay the course until everyone is vaccinated and protected from the virus,” Dr. Barbosa emphasised.