WASHINGTON, CMC – Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr Carissa Etienne, on Wednesday welcomed the expansion of the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the Americas, including the Caribbean.
Etienne also said that PAHO is working closely with member countries to “accelerate access” throughout the region.
During her weekly media briefing, she disclosed that the Bahamas has received its first COVID-19 vaccines, due to the Indian government’s donation of 20,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
She said Peru was scheduled to receive its first shipments of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine on Wednesday through COVAX, the global mechanism to ensure equitable access to vaccines, regardless of countries’ incomes or the size of their economies.
On March 1, the PAHO director said Colombia became the first regional country to receive vaccines through COVAX.
“Today, these doses are being delivered to at-risk groups, including indigenous communities in the country’s Amazon region,” she said.
“Thanks to our collective efforts, nearly 2.3 million COVAX doses will arrive in at least seven countries in our region in the next days and weeks,” she added, disclosing that the countries include Bolivia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Jamaica, and Nicaragua as well as Peru.
PAHO said 36 countries in the Americas are receiving vaccines through COVAX.
“Over the last week, our revolving fund has been working closely with member states to accelerate access to COVID vaccines,” said Etienne, referring to the PAHO mechanism that many regional countries are using to procure vaccines.
For more than 40 years, PAHO said the revolving fund has helped countries in the Americas vaccinate their populations against debilitating or potentially deadly diseases such as polio, measles, yellow fever, bacterial pneumonia, influenza, and the human papilloma virus (HPV).
The fund allows nations to pool their resources to purchase vaccines, syringes, and related supplies at lower costs.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the revolving fund is representing regional countries with COVAX, helping them procure vaccines through the mechanism.
In providing an update on the pandemic’s impact in the Americas, Etienne said Paraguay, Uruguay, and Chile are reporting rising infection, and that, in Brazil, cases are increasing in nearly every state.
Over the last week, she said Brazil suffered its deadliest day since the pandemic began, with 1,910 COVID-related deaths reported in 24 hours.
“We are concerned about the situation in Brazil,” Dr. Etienne said.
“It provides a sober reminder of the threat of resurgence. Areas hit hard by the virus in the past are still vulnerable to infection today.”
While Brazil struggles with a resurgence, she said the US, Canada, and Mexico continue to report declining cases.
In the Caribbean, she said cases are declining in larger islands, but added that infection is rising in Cuba, the Bahamas, St Lucia and Guadeloupe.
In the past week, PAHO said the Americas has reported more than one million cases of COVID-19, bringing the total to nearly 52 million.
More than 1.2 million have died from the virus.