PAHO is working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners to bring the highly effective mRNA vaccine technology into the region. So far, more than 30 public and private companies and institutions have expressed desire to take part in the technology transfer, and PAHO is in the “process of identifying the most promising proposals”, she said.
The goal is to take advantage of existing production capacities that could contribute to manufacture mRNA vaccines in the Americas. The principle is that manufacture should benefit the entire region, with regional pharmaceutical production and distribution of the vaccines by PAHO’s Revolving Fund to all countries, PAHO said in a release yesterday.
Only about 23 per cent of people in the region have been fully vaccinated, and in many countries, coverage is much lower.
“Just as manufacturers adapted quickly to produce some of the PPE [personal protective equipment] and ventilators our region needed earlier in the pandemic, we must bring the same spirit of collaboration into vaccine production in the region,” the PAHO director said.
Noting that investment is key, Dr Etienne said the Inter-American Development Bank, the World Bank and other partners have expressed desire to help the region expand its pharmaceutical production.
“The region’s values of pan-Americanism and solidarity can help us strengthen pharmaceutical production,” she said. “The investments we make today will not only help us get through this pandemic faster, but they will also lay the groundwork to deal with future health crises, so we have no time to waste.”
Turning to the crisis in Haiti following the August 14 earthquake, Dr Etienne said: “PAHO continues to distribute much-needed medical supplies and is working closely with the ministry and emergency teams on the ground.”
“We are also coordinating with the Ministry of Health on the deployment of emergency medical teams,” she said. “So far, seven of these teams have been deployed, four more are due to arrive, and others are on standby.”
Dr Etienne also covered the pandemic’s deadly trajectory, reporting over 1.5 million new cases and nearly 20,000 COVID-19-related deaths in the Americas in the past week.
The US, Mexico, and Brazil reported the highest number of cases. Many Central American countries, including Belize, Guatemala and Honduras, are experiencing a rise in COVID-19 infections. Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and smaller Caribbean islands such as Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Dominica have reported steep increases in new infections and deaths.
“And while hospitalisations are continuing to decrease across much of South America, infections remain high, so we urge countries to continue to stay on top of new outbreaks,” she said.