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Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reports path to contain COVID-19 “highly uncertain”

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Posted: Thursday, September 23, 2021. 2:48 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: Officials of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) have cited various issues, including surges in cases, vaccine hesitancy, and shortages of equipment and supplies as making the course of containing COVID-19 across the Americas.

In an update to the 59th Directing Council of Health Ministers, the Americas was reported to have 88.2 million confirmed cases and 2.1 million deaths to date.

A continuous, comprehensive response involves sustained health services network capacities, public health and social measures, targeted vaccination operations, and outbreak control actions, such as early detection, investigation, and isolation of cases, and tracing and quarantine of contacts to win what director Dr Carissa Etienne told delegates is “the fight of our lives.”

The availability of COVID-19 vaccines continues to be limited, the report said, and many countries in Latin America and the Caribbean face inequities in access. Vaccine hesitancy, it added, may further slow uptake by the population, or prevent full achievement of vaccination potential.

PAHO Health Emergencies Director Dr. Ciro Ugarte provided an update on the organization’s response. Since January 2020, he said, PAHO has provided 21.5 million COVD-19 PCR tests to countries, along with 7.3 million rapid diagnostic tests and Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to 35 countries, including 42 million masks. 279 training sessions were provided on testing, tracking, care, and other topics, along with 171 technical guidelines published.

Emergency Medical Teams coordinated by PAHO have helped in the response, Dr. Ugarte added, providing more than 14,000 additional hospital beds, including 1,477 critical care beds to countries throughout the region.

Among the lessons learned, Dr. Ugarte said, “are that public health and social measures must continue even where acceptable vaccination coverage exists, and that continuous planning for responsive health care service delivery during COVID-19 surges remains critical for the medium/long term.”

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