The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Friday reported that over two-thirds of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean is already vaccinated against COVID-19, although certain countries have yet to reach even half of their population.
COVID-19 vaccines work and are very safe, PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne said, as she urged unvaccinated people to take their doses and make sure their loved ones are also injected. They are protecting the majority of people in our region from the worst consequences of COVID-19 infection, she added.
Etienne noted that 14 countries and territories in the region have already reached the WHO target of vaccinating 70% of their population by June 30 and that eight other countries have reached coverage of more than 60%. The PAHO Revolving Fund has delivered more than 141 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines in collaboration with COVAX and with donor support.
However, although the supply of COVID-19 vaccines is now sufficient to meet demand throughout the Americas, less than 30% of people have received the first vaccine in Haiti, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and St. Lucia, among Caribbean nations, while Guatemala, Guyana, and Paraguay have not yet reached 50% coverage.
PAHO is now working with countries to provide technical assistance for vaccination campaigns, as well as planning and communication support to help close the gaps. Vaccination is a family affair, and it's up to all of us to make sure our loved ones are protected, she said. If you or a family member has not yet been vaccinated against COVID-19, address your questions and concerns with your health care provider, she added.
Etienne also urged countries to integrate their vaccination efforts against the new coronavirus into routine immunization campaigns, so that pregnant women are vaccinated against COVID-19 along with influenza and tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis. Parents would also be vaccinated while their children are being protected against diseases such as measles and polio.
The PAHO head also said the emergency infrastructure that distributes COVID-19 vaccines should help improve the uptake of routine vaccination, making it more convenient and accessible for families to catch up on all their vaccinations at once.
On the eve of Vaccination Week in the Americas, which begins Saturday, Dr. Etienne called on countries to reach at least 70% of their population with COVID-19 vaccines. Older adults, people with pre-existing conditions, health care workers, and pregnant women should be the primary target of these campaigns, as they are most at risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19, she insisted.
The number of COVID-19 cases in the Americas decreased by 2.3% last week and continues to decline, but infections went up 11.2% in North America. They have also increased in the Caribbean, it was reported. But overall deaths are down 15.2%, proving vaccines work, Etienne claimed.