Latin America and the Caribbean exceeded the 1 million death toll from COVID-19 on Friday, according to information from Reuters.
From this number, 446.309 deaths (figure reached on Friday night with 2,215 new deaths in 24 hours) have occurred in Brazil, a country that became a coronavirus epicenter this year, reaching the second-deadliest outbreak outside the U.S. India, however, is likely to soon surpass this mark.
Regarding confirmed COVID-19 cases, Brazil remains the third most affected country behind India and the U.S. In the region, it has the highest death toll, followed by Mexico and Colombia, which, together, represent around 74% of all the deaths in Latin America.
On average, 31% of the global COVID-19 deaths in May occurred in Latin America and the Caribbean, region that is home to only 8.4% of the global population.
“Instead of preparing for the pandemic, we minimized the disease, saying the tropical heat would deactivate the virus,” stated Dr. Francisco Moreno Sanchez, head of the COVID-19 program at one of Mexico’s main hospitals and a critic of the government’s vaccination plan.
Over the past week, all the top eight countries recording the most COVID-19 deaths per capita were in Latin America.
“Unfortunately, we are among the most affected regions, where the handling of the pandemic has been the most mistaken, and now we are suffering the consequences,” Sanchez told Reuters.
Vaccinations in South America, where just 15% of people have received at least one shot, are way behind the rest of the world (Europe: 28%, North America: 34%). Asia and Africa are the only regions at a lower rate: 5% and 1%, respectively, according to Our World in Data of May 19.
“Just three percent of Latin Americans have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. We urgently need more vaccines,” said Carissa Etienne, Pan American Health Organization director.
According to the pediatric surgeon Kurt Paulsen, who works in a vaccination site in Bolivia, the COVID-19 immunization has lacked strategic planning. “At first they brought lots of different vaccines with no information to show people what they are being injected with.”