Posted: Friday, April 22, 2022. 10:35 am CST.
By Aaron Humes: While its pace has been uneven across Latin America and the Caribbean, more than 2/3 of the region’s residents are double-dosed against COVID-19, according to Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa F. Etienne.
14 countries and territories of the region have already reached the WHO goal of vaccinating 70 percent of their populations ahead of the June 30 target, and a further eight countries have reached over 60 percent coverage.
But some still have not reached even half their populations; in the Caribbean, less than 30 percent of people have received their first vaccine in Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and St. Lucia, and in Latin America, Guatemala, Guyana, and Paraguay have yet to reach 50 percent coverage. (Belize has reached 50 percent coverage of first doses and is slightly behind on full vaccination, while a smaller population has received booster shots).
Dr. Etienne reminded in a media briefing this week that “COVID-19 vaccines work and are very safe…They are protecting most people in our region from the worst consequences of COVID-19 infection.” She further urged those who have not yet done so to get vaccinated and ensure their loved ones are also protected.
While the number of COVID-19 infections reported in the Americas dropped by 2.3 percent this week and continue to decline, cases did increase by 11.2 percent in North America and have also spiked in the Caribbean. The number of deaths has decreased by 15.2 percent (to 4,797), showing that vaccines are working well to protect people from hospitalization and death, Dr. Etienne noted.
PAHO’s Revolving Fund has delivered more than 141 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in partnership with COVAX and with the support of donors. PAHO is now working with countries to provide technical assistance to vaccination campaigns, as well as planning and communications support to help close the gaps.
Dr. Etienne also urged countries to integrate their COVID-19 vaccination efforts into routine immunization campaigns. This will enable pregnant women to get their COVID vaccine alongside their flu shot and tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis vaccines, and will also allow parents to get their shot while their children get protected against diseases like measles and polio.
Similarly, the emergency infrastructure that was set up to get COVID-19 vaccines into arms as quickly as possible should also be leveraged to improve routine vaccination uptake, said the Director. Ahead of Vaccination Week in the Americas, which begins April 23, Dr. Etienne also called on countries to step up efforts to reach at least 70% of their populations with COVID-19 vaccines. Elderly people, those with preexisting conditions, health care workers, and pregnant women should be the primary focus of these campaigns as they are most at risk of hospitalization and death due to COVID.
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