More than 1.3 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Latin American and Caribbean member countries in less than two years.
PAHO Director, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa da Silva Jr., said the doses have enabled the region to achieve approximately 71 percent coverage against the virus.
“This is not a small feat. The Americas is now the region with the second highest level of COVID-19 vaccinations in the world,” he said while highlighting PAHO’s role in achieving the outcome.
“The COVID-19 incidence rates are now 20 to 30 times lower than just a year ago,” he added while addressing PAHO’s COVID-19 digital media briefing on Thursday (March 9).
Dr. Barbosa da Silva Jr., who succeeded Dr. Carissa Etienne as PAHO Director in January, noted that the region has recorded more than 190 million cases of COVID-19 in the three years since the first case of the virus was confirmed on February 26, 2020, in Brazil.
The number, he pointed out, accounted for 25 percent of the total global count.
Additionally, the Director said there were more than 2.9 million deaths during the period, representing almost 43 percent of the global total.
Dr. Barbosa da Silva Jr. said that despite the encouraging outcomes in relation to vaccinations and incidence rates, “COVID-19 is still with us, and the virus has yet to settle into a predictable pattern”.
“In the past month alone, we have seen over 1.5 million new cases in our region and 17,000 deaths,” he told journalists, adding that “we cannot become complacent.”
The Director emphasized that “as we learn to live with this virus, countries must first maintain and continue to strengthen surveillance,” adding that “we know that COVID-19 can evolve and adapt quickly… [so the] risk of new variants is real”.
Additionally, Dr. Barbosa da Silva Jr. said countries need to continue implementing COVID-19 vaccination programs and reach out to the 30 percent who have yet to receive their first dose.
“We have, unfortunately, millions of people who haven’t had access… yet in our region. That is a challenge for our countries, and PAHO is supporting the countries to address this very important output. Vaccines are now readily available. So, we must be determined… to reach each and every person,” he noted.
Dr. Barbosa da Silva Jr. also underscored the importance of taking vaccine boosters, which he described as “essential in preparing ourselves for any new wave of infection or new variant of concern.”
Equally important, the Director added, is the need for countries to develop and implement new strategies to provide transparent information on COVID-19 developments at local and national levels and engage health professionals with the expertise in dealing with the virus.
“We have the tools to end the COVID-19 emergency, but we need to continue working if we want really to have complete control and stop transmission in the near future,” Dr. Barbosa da Silva Jr. underscored.
Source — JIS
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