Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa F. Etienne called attention to the slow rate of Covid-19 vaccination in Latin American and the Caribbean and warned that controlling the virus could take years if current trend continues.
‘Today we´re seeing the emergence of two worlds: one quickly returning to normal, and another where recovery remains a distant future,’ Dr. Etienne told journalists at her weekly media briefing.
In some countries not even 1% of the population has been vaccinated. In other countries, the figure is only 3%. Director calls for ‘urgently’ ramped up access to vaccines and urges countries to contribute doses or financial resources.
While the United States has fully vaccinated more than 40 percent of its population, she said, the pace is much slower in Latin America and the Caribbean. Some countries – including Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia – have vaccinated only about 3% of their populations. In Central America, only 2 million people have been fully vaccinated; in the Caribbean, less than 3 million. In some countries, including Guatemala, Trinidad and Tobago, and Honduras, not even 1% of the population has been vaccinated.
‘The inequities in vaccination coverage are undeniable,’ Dr. Etienne said. ‘Unfortunately, vaccine supply is concentrated in a few nations while most of the world waits for doses to trickle out. Although COVID-19 vaccines are new, this story isn’t—inequality has too often dictated who has the right to health.’
She added, ‘If current trends continue, the health, social and economic disparities in our region will grow even larger, and it will be years before we control this virus in the Americas.’
Dr. Etienne called for ‘urgently’ ramping up access to vaccines in Latin America and the Caribbean and prioritizing countries where ‘even vulnerable populations have yet to be protected.’
She urged vaccine- and resource-rich countries to follow the leads of the United States, which donated an initial 6 million doses, Spain, which contributed 5 million, and Canada, which committed $50 million Canadian dollars to expand vaccine access in Latin America and the Caribbean.
‘We hope other countries – particularly those with excess doses – and global financial institutions will follow in their footsteps to provide the support we need to protect the 70% of our population that will not be covered under COVAX,’ she said, referring to the global alliance to ensure equal access to COVID-19 vaccines.