Posted: Tuesday, March 23, 2021. 6:34 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa F. Etienne has confirmed that more doses of COVID-19 vaccines under the COVAX mechanism are to arrive in Belize this week in addition to a million delivered to Brazil and an allocation to Suriname.
A total of 2.2 million doses procured through the scheme have arrived for distribution just in time, said Dr Etienne, as she warned that the virus is surging dangerously in many countries in the region.
In her weekly media briefing, Dr Etienne said that the vaccines are coming, but are still months away for most, while the virus has not receded or gone away. She urged people to continue to respect public health measures – masks, hand washing, and social distancing – especially during upcoming holidays. “People cannot let down their guard by engaging in close contact with others.”
More than 1.2 million were infected in the last week and 31,272 deaths were recorded, with particular areas of concern being Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, Brazil and Venezuela as well as Bolivia and Peru.
The virus is also on the march again in Guatemala, where increasing cases and hospitalizations are “straining hospital bed capacity due to the influx of patients;” Cuba, Aruba, Curacao, and Antigua and Barbuda; Jamaica, where cases have risen steadily for several weeks; Canada’s most populous state of Ontario, where increased cases have been reported in the last two weeks, and the U.S. states of Minnesota and West Virginia have reported rising deaths.
It is “an active public health emergency,” Dr. Etienne said. “As the virus surges and hospitalizations rise,” she continued, “we urgently need to scale up vaccination among our most vulnerable populations.”
Over 155.8 million doses of the vaccine, including the COVAX deliveries, have been rolled out in the Americas, and in the Caribbean and Latin America, immunization campaigns are underway in 33 of the 35 countries that are members of PAHO. PAHO is assisting the two countries, Haiti and Cuba, that have yet to start immunization.
“The doses that were delivered are helping us start to protect health workers and other vulnerable communities, and we expect more doses to arrive every week,” Dr. Etienne said, reporting that acceptance of vaccines has been high. “These WHO-approved vaccines are safe, and they work,” she said. “When it’s your turn, don’t hesitate. Get vaccinated.”
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