Americas need more vaccines and faster – PAHO Director
Twenty-eight countries in the Americas have benefitted from three million vaccines through the COVAX mechanism since March, but Pan American Health Organisation Director Carissa F Etienne said supplies still fall far short of the coverage needed to protect vulnerable groups.
The COVAX target for the Americas is to provide enough vaccines for around 100 million people by the end of 2021, with all countries receiving enough vaccines to immunise some 20 per cent of their populations.
In a recent press briefing, Dr Etienne noted that “Because of the global limitations on manufacturing vaccines, it has been difficult for our region to gain access to the vaccines we need to immunise our populations. Vaccine production for approved COVID-19 vaccines needs to increase worldwide because none of us will be safe until all are safe.”
PAHO said in a statement that current progress is far from reaching the coverage necessary to protect the most vulnerable groups, measuring about 20 per cent of the population, to reduce the high mortality in the region.
As a result, the Director has called for immunisation in the Americas, which has the highest burden of cases and deaths, to become a global priority.
Countries began receiving COVAX deliveries on March 1, with the goal of ensuring fair and equitable access for the 36 participating countries in the Americas. These include 26 self-financing countries and 10 countries supported through the Gavi COVAX Advance Market Commitment mechanism – of which Guyana is a beneficiary.
The rollout of COVAX vaccines, a historic milestone, was the culmination of months of negotiations and collaboration between the Ministries of Health, PAHO, and other partners. The PAHO Revolving Fund, designated by COVAX, has been working to procure vaccines on behalf of the countries in the Americas.
Worldwide, 674 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered, including about 36 million doses that COVAX shipped to 86 participating countries.
“Attaining vaccine equity and distributing as many vaccines as possible to as many people as possible is our current goal…Vaccines are not yet the main method of slowing transmission of COVID-19. We must maintain and adjust our public health and social measures in every country,” Dr Etienne emphasised.
Forty-nine countries and territories in the Americas have introduced COVID-19 vaccines and administered more than 210 million doses, according to PAHO figures. The 210 million includes COVAX supplies and vaccines procured through bilateral deals that countries made individually with pharmaceutical companies.
Among the vaccines that Guyana has received are 3000 doses of AstraZeneca, which were from Barbados, and another 80,000 doses of the same jab were from India. China also donated 20,000 doses of its locally manufactured Sinopharm vaccine. Guyana also received 25,000 from the United Arab Emirates.
Last month, the COVAX facility delivered 24,000 AstraZeneca vaccines to Guyana.
On April 3, Guyana received 25,000 doses of Sputnik V vaccine as part of the 200,000 doses that was purchased by Government to the tune of US$4 million. Guyana has donated 5000 doses of vaccines back to Barbados.
So far, the COVID-19 vaccination rollout has administered over 52,000 first doses of the vaccines.