Posted: Thursday, April 22, 2021. 8:33 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa F. Etienne in her weekly press briefing today said that hesitation over COVID-19 vaccination could ultimately cost many more lives and vowed to combat misinformation over vaccine usage.
“Vaccines are saving lives now and will contribute to control transmission in the near future when we achieve high immunization coverage,” she told a press briefing.
Reports of very rare unexpected side effects from some COVID-19 vaccines should not make people hesitate to get immunized, she said, considering the disease has killed millions more – more than three million worldwide, nearly half of them in the Americas, and far more than those directly attributable to the vaccine. In the last week alone, the Americas reported more than 1.5 million new COVID cases and nearly 40,000 deaths.
“The vaccines delivered through COVAX have been thoroughly assessed by the WHO experts. The benefits of these vaccines in preventing infections, hospitalizations, and deaths outweigh the risks of side events,” Dr Etienne noted. “Because unreliable information spreads quickly, PAHO is collaborating with tech companies like Twitter, Google, and Facebook to address fake news and ensure the public can easily find accurate information,” she added.
Importantly, Dr. Etienne clarified that “COVID vaccines don’t provide instant protection. Our bodies take time to build up immunity to the virus after we’re vaccinated, and we won’t see their full impact until more of us are protected. Let’s remember that with the limited doses available to us at this time, the priority should be to save lives. Stopping transmission of this disease requires additional measures,” Dr. Etienne said. “…in Israel, COVID-19 vaccines are already helping drive down infections, and initial data from Chile and some cities in Brazil indicate a reduction in hospitalizations among the elderly, thanks in part to COVID vaccines.”
“PAHO is doing everything we can to get as many vaccines to our region as possible, as quickly as possible. We have helped deliver more than 4.2 million doses of COVID vaccines to 29 countries in the Americas. Millions of additional vaccines are due in the coming weeks. And we won’t stop until every country in our region has the vaccines they need,” Dr. Etienne said.
But, she noted, “We need more COVID vaccines for our region. We need countries to quickly administer the doses they have on hand. We need communities to build trust in vaccines. And when it’s your turn to get vaccinated, remember: These vaccines can save your life.”
Vaccination Week in the Americas, which starts next week, “is a perfect time to remind us all of the power of vaccines to save lives. Vaccinations are a collective effort and the success of immunization campaigns depends on all of us,” Dr. Etienne concluded.
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