PAHO Director urges countries to expedite vaccination efforts and strengthen surveillance

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PAHO Director urges countries to expedite vaccination efforts and strengthen surveillance

Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) director Dr Carissa Etienne said Wednesday that while COVID-19 infections have generally declined in the Americas in the past week “local trends remain worrisome.”

In her weekly update on the COVID-19 situation in the Americas, Etienne also urged countries to expedite vaccination efforts and take steps to strengthen surveillance efforts to monitor diseases that spread from humans to animals, such as coronaviruses.

“Just as we work together to control this pandemic, we must consider the ways in which we can collaborate to avoid future pandemics,” she said.

“COVID-19 has been unique in its scale and impact, but it’s not the first emerging disease to cause ripple effects throughout the world.”

Etienne cited recent epidemics with severe impacts that were caused by diseases that spilled from animals to people, such as ebola, chikungunya, yellow fever, avian influenza, and zika.

“We need countries to ensure that animal, agricultural and environmental partners are brought to the table to build more robust surveillance systems that can detect risks faster,” she said.

Etienne also announced that the organisation closed additional agreements with AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, and Sinovac to facilitate access to COVID-19 vaccines in Latin America and the Caribbean. She said these World Health Organisation (WHO) emergency use authorised vaccines will be made available to countries this year and next year.

Addressing the trajectory of COVID-19 in the Americas this week, Etienne said while cases were generally declining across the Caribbean, the islands of Cuba and Bermuda continued to report high rates of new infections and Barbados saw an increase of nearly 75 per cent over the last week.

Although cases were generally decreasing in Central America, she said hospitalisations jumped by two-thirds in Belize.