Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, says 15 member countries will receive approximately six million of the 25 million doses of coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccines that the United States (US) has earmarked for deployment to help ease the global shortage.
She said that these nations include countries in Central and South America, and the Caribbean, inclusive of CARICOM member states.
Speaking during PAHO’s COVID-19 digital briefing on Wednesday (June 30), Dr. Etienne said 1.5 million of the doses arrived last Sunday (June 27), from which the first allocation was dispatched to Honduras.
She said that “millions more [are expected] to be delivered in the coming days”.
Dr. Etienne noted that PAHO, through its Revolving Fund, has been working tirelessly with the US Government and those of the recipient countries, as also the World Health Organization COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility “to ensure that these vaccines are received promptly, safely and are ready to be deployed as soon as they arrive”.
The Director advised that PAHO is also in discussions with Canada, Spain, and other partners to secure more vaccine donations and ensure speedy deployment to member countries.
Noting that global vaccine supplies remain “very limited”, Dr. Etienne maintained that donations are “our best option in the short-term to protect the most vulnerable in Latin America and the Caribbean”.
She said that PAHO is grateful to the US for the “generous donation”, which she pointed out, “will make a difference in some countries that are suffering extreme hardships due to COVID-19”.
Dr. Etienne indicated that PAHO, in tandem with COVAX, governments, vaccine producers and other partners has, to date, delivered more than 21 million doses to 31 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
She pointed out, however, that “the reality is… we still face a glaring gap in access to vaccines”.
“We are hopeful that these donations [by the US] and the support [provided] will be duplicated by other developed countries, so that we can expand access to vaccines as soon as possible,” Dr. Etienne said.
The region of the Americas has recorded a staggering 72 million COVID-19 cases and nearly 1.9 million deaths since the pandemic’s onset.
These figures include 1.1 million new cases and 30,000 additional deaths recorded last week.