Director of the Pan American Health Organization, PAHO, Dr. Carissa Etienne has singled out Jamaica as one of six countries in Latin America and the Caribbean that’s yet to vaccinate 20 percent of its population.
Her comments come amid concerns of vaccine hesitancy across the region.
Both the World Health Organization and PAHO outlined a target of 40 percent vaccination for Latin America and the Caribbean countries by December. But so far, just over 11 percent of Jamaicans have been fully vaccinated.
The PAHO Director said that supply delays have affected the program in Jamaica.
“Today I want to spotlight those countries in our region that are lagging and that will require special attention to meet this 40% vaccination target. Six countries in our region have yet to reach 20% of their populations: These are Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and Haiti in the Caribbean, and Guatemala and Nicaragua in Central America Across all these countries, vaccine availability due to unequal distribution of doses has been a central challenge. But many of these countries are facing their own unique barriers. In Jamaica, supply delays have gotten in the way. And across the Caribbean, vaccine hesitancy among some groups remains a problem,” Dr Etienne said in a weekly press briefing for PAHO.
Twenty countries across Latin America and the Caribbean have already passed that 40 percent target.
For the countries that are lagging, PAHO said it is working to accelerate vaccine deliveries to the region, including COVAX-procured and donated doses. Jamaica is one of the countries that will receive additional vaccine supplies in the coming weeks.
“We’re supporting Jamaica, Guatemala, and Nicaragua in finalizing preparations to receive COVAX and bilateral shipments in the coming weeks,” she said.
“In the last few days, we fast-tracked the delivery of a total of 1.3 million doses that were donated by Spain, Germany, the United States of America, and Canada. These vaccines are being used to boost coverage in Honduras, Guyana, Argentina, and Jamaica.”
As more vaccines become available, Dr. Etienne has urged Caribbean leaders to implement vaccination policies that fit the needs of their population.