Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director, Carissa F. Etienne, said that while Latin America and the Caribbean is on track to reach the WHO COVID-19 vaccination target of 40% before the end of the year, six countries have yet to vaccinate 20% of their populations. The Director also introduced three possible scenarios for the future of the pandemic.
The PAHO Director highlighted that while the overall vaccination rate in Latin America and the Caribbean currently stands at 39%, “in far too many places, coverage is much lower.”
“Six countries in our region have yet to reach 20% of their populations: These are Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Haiti in the Caribbean, and Guatemala and Nicaragua in Central America,” she added.
As more vaccine doses are making their way to the region, countries must “make the necessary preparations so these doses can be used as quickly as possible,” she highlighted.
PAHO is working to accelerate vaccine deliveries to the Region, including COVAX-procured and donated doses. In the past few days, PAHO worked to fast-track the delivery of 1.3 million vaccine doses donated by Spain, Germany, the United States and Canada, which will be used to boost coverage in Honduras, Guyana, Argentina, and Jamaica.
The organisation is also preparing to receive COVAX and bilateral shipments in Jamaica, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.
The PAHO Director called on countries to hire and train health workers to ensure vaccines can be administered quickly, and to tackle hesitancy by equipping the health workforce at all levels to answer patients’ questions and help them understand the benefits of vaccines.
“To be effective, vaccine campaigns must also be designed around the unique needs of the population,” the Director said. She cited examples from Belize, which has promoted COVID vaccines in public spaces, such as bus terminals and markets. In Bolivia, small cash transfers have helped provide an incentive for more pregnant women to get vaccinated, and in Brazil, vaccine champions have been key to encourage vaccination.
Dr. Etienne said that the trajectory of the pandemic remains highly uncertain but PAHO has developed three possible scenarios, which depend on the implementation of public health measures and vaccination coverage:
• Continued high rates of community transmission due to low vaccination coverage and insufficient public health and social measures.
• Periodic spikes in transmission when public health and social measures slip or vaccine coverage dips.
• Reduced hospitalizations and deaths due to consistent public health and social measures and high vaccination coverage.
“The actions we take over the next three months will help us save lives, make the most of available supplies and determine our outlook for 2022,” the PAHO Director said.
In the last week, the Americas reported over 1.1 million new cases and just over 24,000 COVID-related deaths.
In North America, while cases are dropping overall, infections remain high in the American Midwest, Alaska, and the Northwest Territories of Canada.
Most countries in Central America are seeing declines in infections though cases remain high in Belize.
In South America, cases are also dropping, with some spikes at the subnational level.
In the Caribbean, cases have increased in the Dominican Republic and Haiti. Barbados is also reporting a five-fold increase in infections over the last month.