The course of the pandemic remains “extremely uncertain” in the Americas and although it could be controlled if vaccination is expanded and sanitary measures are maintained, there is also the possibility that COVID-19 persists over time, said Wednesday the Director of the Pan American Health Organization.
“The scenarios largely depend on two factors that are related: the implementation of public health measures and the dynamics of vaccination coverage,” said Carissa Etienne. “Without systematic and timely action, there is a possibility that COVID will become an endemic disease,” he warned.
The Americas are on track to reach the goal of 40% vaccination set by the World Health Organization by the end of 2021. However, there are still six countries in the region – including Guatemala, Haiti and Nicaragua – that have not immunized or to 20% of its population. The regional average is currently 39%, with a handful of countries – Chile, Canada and Uruguay – that have applied two doses to 70% of their population.
Much of the obstacles that Latin American and Caribbean countries have faced in accessing vaccines have been derived from lack of availability. The developed nations of the world hoarded doses with bilateral agreements with pharmaceutical companies, leaving behind the poorest, who can buy only at low prices or access the doses through donations.
PAHO has distributed vaccines in the region through the United Nations COVAX mechanism, which has also encountered a brake due to the lack of availability of doses.
In the last week, the Americas registered more than 1.1 million new cases and just over 24,000 deaths from COVID-19, according to PAHO. Although the number of sick and deceased has been reduced in some countries of the region, the situation remains delicate in others.
In Haiti, one of the countries with the lowest vaccination rates against COVID-19, the socio-political situation has impacted efforts to distribute doses and medical supplies, said Ciro Ugarte, PAHO’s Director of Health Emergencies. Insecurity has also been an obstacle, especially in Port-au-Prince, he said.
In Nicaragua, meanwhile, PAHO is working so that a delivery of vaccines from the COVAX mechanism that was scheduled for Monday and was delayed arrives the week of October 18, explained Ugarte.
At the weekly press conference from the organization’s headquarters in Washington, Etienne outlined three possible scenarios for the next nine months.
The first, of high and continuous rates of virus transmission due to low vaccination coverage and insufficient public health measures.
The second, with periodic transmission peaks when public health and social measures fail or vaccination coverage decreases, and the third with a drop in hospitalizations and deaths due to the application of persistent social and public health measures and high coverage. vaccination.
In order to achieve this third situation, which is the most positive, equitable access to vaccines, the implementation of national immunization plans, and financing at all levels are also needed, according to PAHO.
“The actions we take in the next three months will help us save lives, make the most of available supplies and determine our prospects for 2022,” Etienne said.