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Most countries in the Americas will reach 2021 COVID-19 vaccination target of 40%, but too many are lagging behind

Posted: Thursday, October 14, 2021. 6:52 pm CST.

By Rubén Morales Iglesias: Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director, Carissa F. Etienne, said that as a region Latin America and the Caribbean will reach the WHO COVID-19 vaccination target of 40% before the end of the year, six countries are far behind and have not yet vaccinated 20% of their populations. The Director also introduced three possible scenarios for the future of the pandemic.

At this point, Etienne said the overall vaccination rate in Latin America and the Caribbean currently stands at 39%.

“Six countries in our region have yet to reach 20% of their populations: These are Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Haiti in the Caribbean, and Guatemala and Nicaragua in Central America,” she said.

The region is getting more vaccines, but these countries have to “make the necessary preparations so these doses can be used as quickly as possible,” she said.

Etienne said PAHO, working through COVAX-procured and donated doses, is working on fast-tracking the delivery of 1.3 million vaccine doses donated by Spain, Germany, the United States, and Canada. She said these vaccines will be used to boost coverage in Honduras, Guyana, Argentina, and Jamaica, adding that PAHO is also preparing to receive COVAX and bilateral shipments in Jamaica, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.

Etienne said these countries need to hire and train health workers to speed up the administration of the vaccines. She said that the countries also have to work on convincing the hesitant population by ensuring the health workforce is equipped at all levels to answer patients’ questions and help them understand the benefits of vaccines.

“To be effective, vaccine campaigns must also be designed around the unique needs of the population,” said Etienne, citing Belize’s move to vaccinate in public spaces, such as bus terminals and markets, as an example. She also mentioned that in Bolivia, small cash transfers have been given as incentives to pregnant women to get vaccinated.

“The actions we take over the next three months will help us save lives, make the most of available supplies and determine our outlook for 2022,” the PAHO Director said.

She made reference to the 1.1 million new cases and over 24,000 COVID-related deaths reported in the Americas over the last week.

She pointed out that while cases are dropping overall in North America, infection rates remain high in the American Midwest, Alaska, and the Northwest Territories of Canada.

She also said that infections remain high in Belize while cases are declining in the rest of Central America.

In South America, while there is a drop in cases, there have been spikes at the subnational level.

She said that in the Caribbean, the Dominican Republic and Haiti have reported increases and singled out Barbados where a five-fold increase in infections was reported over the last month.

 

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