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Health ministers agree to tackle urgent health issues in the Americas at PAHO Directing Council

Posted: Monday, September 27, 2021. 9:46 pm CST.

By Aaron Humes: The Pan American Health Organization’s Directing Council has resolved to strengthen health policies in the Americas and tackle urgent challenges, such as the erosion of routine immunization coverage and responding to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.

The decisions come out of its 59th Directing Council which concluded on Friday. It is responsible for setting PAHO’s policies and priorities for technical cooperation and considering matters of public health significance.

PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne acknowledged the many challenges that have impacted national pandemic responses, including “global supply chain failures, inequities in availability and distribution of essential supplies, limited or no regional production capacity, inadequate regulatory and support systems,” all of which together deepened regional vulnerability.

She appealed for support to strengthen a policy of self-sufficiency for the region, “which would enable increased national and regional production and increased access to vaccines, essential medicines, and health technology.”

Dr Etienne also called for urgent efforts to boost immunization, saying this week “we lamented the general decline in vaccination coverage in the Americas with increasing levels of vaccine hesitancy, all of which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.” She urged “genuine attention to expanding coverage, improving vaccine outreach programs, investing in the first level of care, and addressing the issue of vaccine hesitancy.”

She welcomed commitments made by major stakeholders at the US-led Global COVID-19 Summit this week, to meet the goal of vaccinating at least 70 percent of all people in every country by the end of 2022.

The Council also discussed global health issues, particularly the World Health Organization’s (WHO) preparedness for future health emergencies, including legal and financial aspects. Dr. Etienne stressed that much can be learned from PAHO’s decades of experience in responding to and managing emergencies.

“I am very confident that together, unified in the spirit of Pan American solidarity, we will vanquish this SARS-CoV-2 and be much better prepared in real terms for the next, having taken on board and to heart the lessons learned in this chapter of public health,” Dr. Etienne said, “Our people as well as history will demand that we learn from this experience.”


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