Director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), Dr Carissa Etienne, is appealing to countries who have vaccines close to expiry, to donate them to countries in the region.
During PAHO’s weekly COVID-19 briefing yesterday, Dr Etienne said last week’s data had showed that infection rates were decreasing in countries with higher vaccine coverage, while increasing in countries that had barely vaccinated their populations.
She said unless all countries are protected, the world will not be safe against COVID-19.
“We face a pandemic of the unvaccinated, and the only way to stop it is to expand vaccinations. Vaccines are critical, even if no vaccine is 100 per cent effective. Just as important are the public health measures like physical distancing, mask-wearing, avoiding crowds and also infection control measures like testing, contact tracing, quarantine and isolation,” Etienne said.
She said while the Americas has reported a slight decrease in COVID-19 statistics, the region is divided by vaccine access.
Etienne noted that Costa Rica, where one in three people are vaccinated, there is a steady decrease in COVID-19 cases. Likewise in South American countries like Uruguay, Chile and Argentina.
However, the issue is different in Latin America and the Caribbean, where only 15 per cent of the people are vaccinated.
Etienne said low-income countries like Honduras and Haiti, which recently received donations from the USA, are yet to vaccinate 1 per cent of their populations.
She said cases are also accelerating in most Central American countries, with Guatemala reporting high infections and hospitalisations. In the Caribbean, cases are spiking in Cuba and Martinique had a tripling.
Etienne said the data clearly showed the need for more vaccines now.
While she commended countries like USA, Canada and Spain for pledging to deliver doses, Etienne said the reality is that the region needs more.
She said without vaccines, there is a greater risk of more people falling sick and dying.