Posted: Monday, February 1, 2021. 3:06 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Thirty-six countries and territories in the Americas, among them Belize, have been notified by the COVAX facility led by the World Health Organization (WHO), of the estimated allocation of doses for the first phase of vaccine delivery, specifically that created by AstraZeneca, according to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).
The vaccines are scheduled for delivery beginning in the second half of February through the second quarter of 2021 (April to June).
The AstraZeneca vaccine is still under review by WHO for emergency use approval (EUL), which is expected to occur in the next few days. The number of doses and delivery schedule is still subject to EUL and manufacturing production capacity, as well as establishing supply agreements between the producers, PAHO, and UNICEF. According to the COVAX statement, it is estimated that around 35.3 million doses will be arriving in the Americas in this first stage.
PAHO Director Carissa Etienne called the start of vaccine delivery “a hopeful step in the fight against this virus and PAHO is proud to facilitate an effort that is urgently needed for our region.”
Most of Belize’s neighbors in Central America and the Caribbean and in South America have also been listed; the United States, which is leading the fight to create vaccines and had refused to join the facility under Donald Trump, is not listed. (The U.S. has applied to join under Joe Biden.)
Countries have been encouraged to get prepared for vaccine reception and deployment under the WHO’s guidance, with which PAHO has assisted.
Countries participating in COVAX were also invited to submit proposals for the “First Wave” initiative, a global pilot program to receive a limited number of doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine in advance of their total allotted quota. Seventy-two countries from around the world submitted applications that were evaluated by an independent committee based on criteria of pandemic risk, impact, and mortality rates in recent weeks, as well as the number of doses available and the feasibility for immediate use by the countries.
The committee selected 18 countries globally, of which four are from the Americas: Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador, and Peru. The total number of doses of Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be received by these four countries will be 377,910 and are expected to arrive beginning mid-February, subject to supply agreements between the manufacturers, UNICEF, and PAHO, according to COVAX.
PAHO Assistant Director Jarbas Barbosa reminded that public health measures – such as the use of masks, avoiding crowds, social distancing, and frequent hand washing are still needed.
The Americas region will need to immunize approximately 500 million people to control the pandemic. The COVAX Mechanism is a global effort to accelerate equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines and ensure that they reach all those who need to receive them.
The goal is to provide vaccines for at least 20% of the population in each country participating in COVAX to protect those most at risk for severe forms of COVID-19. In Latin America and the Caribbean, 37 countries will receive vaccines through COVAX. Of these, 27 will do so with their own financing and 10 will do so at no cost due to their economic condition or population size.
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