Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director, Dr Carissa Etienne, says the entity is working with the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) to explore ways to expand member countries’ access to coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines.
These, she said, include encouraging countries from the region and beyond to share doses they are not or will not be using, noting that “this could occur through vaccine donations or loans to PAHO or through the [World Health Organization’s] COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility”.
ECLAC is a United Nations regional commission that encourages economic cooperation.
Speaking during PAHO’s COVID-19 digital briefing on Wednesday, Etienne said the collaboration with ECLAC comes against the background of gaps in countries’ access to vaccines.
Noting that the gaps are as much as 80 per cent in some of the poorest regional nations, she said PAHO was “well aware” that a number of these countries only have guaranteed vaccine access, through the COVAX Facility, to inoculate 20 per cent of their populations.
She added that this has resulted in leaders facing “enormous pressure” to purchase additional vaccines from manufacturers via bilateral agreements, pointing out that this is “resulting in competition for manufacturing and delivery and, at times, higher prices”.
“So, we are looking at multiple avenues to address this gap,” she said, adding that PAHO, through its Revolving Fund, is “looking around for any available supplies worldwide to help countries from the region access additional doses”.
This, Etienne further noted, “builds on our region’s commitment to solidarity and on PAHO’s track record in vaccine equity for the Americas”.
She assured that PAHO will continue to play an active role in coordinating across countries to expand vaccine coverage regionally, “until we have reached equitable access to vaccines for all”.
“We give our commitment to work with all of our member states within the inter-American system, at the global level, to advocate for and put in place mechanisms, so our countries can have access to vaccines… so that we can bring this pandemic to an end,” Etienne added.
Since the start of 2021, the region of the Americas has recorded over 19.7 million COVID-19 cases and more than 475,000 deaths.
– JIS News