If COVID-19‘s spread continues at current rates, it will take years before the corovirus is controlled in the Americas, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said Wednesday, as it called on countries to share surplus doses of COVID-19’s vaccines.
There were nearly 1.2 million new cases and 34,000 deaths in the region last week, and four of the five countries with the highest number of deaths worldwide are in the Americas, PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said during the organization’s weekly press conference.
“If current trends continue, the health, social and economic disparities in our region will grow even greater and it will take years before we control this virus in the Americas,” Etienne said.
Infections are the highest in many places in the region than at any time during the pandemic, she added, and the emergence of new, more transmissible variants has added new complexities to epidemiological surveillance.
Only 10 percent of the population in Latin America and the Caribbean has been fully vaccinated, with the situation particularly acute in Central America and the Caribbean.
PAHO is grateful to the United States, Spain, and Canada for pledges of funding or donations of millions of vaccine doses, but more needs to be done, the director said.
“We hope that other countries – especially those with excess doses – and global financial institutions will follow suit to provide the support we need,” Etienne said. “Vaccine donations are essential in the short term.”
Before the start of the Copa America in Brazil on Sunday, Ciro Ugarte, PAHO’s Director of Health Emergencies, said that countries hosting mass events should consider postponing them if COVID-19 risks cannot be controlled.
Bolivia and Colombia are seeing an increase in cases and deaths, and ICU beds in many Colombian cities are nearly full, Etienne added.
(Translated by LABS)