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Deaths from COVID-19 in Latin America and Caribbean closing in on 2 million; just ten percent of residents of region vaccinated

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Posted: Friday, July 2, 2021. 10:40 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Carissa Etienne, told reporters this week that countries in the Americas last week alone reported 1.1 million new COVID-19 infections and 30,000 deaths, bringing the total case count to more than 72 million and deaths to nearly 1.9 million.

“Disruptions to essential health services are still widespread across the region, with 29 countries reporting disruptions to almost half of all services,” Dr. Etienne said. “Despite this worrisome picture, just one in ten people in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.”

“The public health impact of vaccination is undeniable – and we are seeing it in places with high coverage. As more people get vaccinated, fewer fall severely ill. Eventually this will have an impact on transmission, keeping us all safe,” she noted.

She also addressed the fresh challenges presented by new seasons in Latin America and the Caribbean. “Now may not be the ideal time for travel – especially in places with active outbreaks or where hospital capacity may be limited,” she warned. Countries facing hurricane season should bolster “coordination among the public health, civil protection and emergency teams that could be called on to act in the event of a storm.”

She urged countries to use effective alert systems and consider outfitting hospitals and expanding shelters to reduce the potential for transmission, including among family members, since social distancing and proper ventilation will become difficult in the context of a storm.

In the Southern Hemisphere, where influenza season has started, countries should bolster surveillance systems to monitor the spread of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, and focus on the proven public health measures such as washing hands and wearing masks. She noted that more than 13 countries have started seasonal influenza vaccination campaigns and over 80 million people have already been protected. “But we still have a lot to do to limit transmission of COVID and other respiratory diseases,” Dr. Etienne said.

 The PAHO Director also thanked the United States for its donations of vaccines to Latin America and the Caribbean, saying she hoped other countries follow suit “so that we can expand access to vaccines as soon as possible.”

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