PORT-AU-PRINCE, July 14 (Reuters) – Haiti received on Wednesday its first 500,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccines donated by the U.S. government through the COVAX vaccine distribution scheme, regional health officials said.

The batch was part of a U.S. pledge to donate some 12 million vaccine doses to countries in the Caribbean and Latin America, according to a statement from PAHO, the regional office of the World Health Organization. The donations were made through the global vaccine facility COVAX, which distributes vaccines to poorer countries.

A national vaccine campaign has yet to begin in Haiti, which has plunged deeper into turmoil following the assassination of President Jovenel Moise. Some private companies, however, have distributed doses to their employees.

Preliminary results of a study conducted by the University of Haiti showed only 22% of Haitians, however, would accept the vaccine, according to Jean Gough, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean in a separate statement.

“Reaching communities with doses of vaccines doesn’t guarantee they want to get vaccinated,” Gough said.

Haiti’s health ministry reported earlier this month that the country to date has registered around 19,400 total cases, and about 500 deaths. Both figures, however, likely undercount the real impact of COVID-19 due to little testing.

Reporting by David Alire Garcia in Port-Au-Prince and Sarah Marsh in Havana, Writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

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‘We’re drowning’: Argentines struggle under COVID-19 as death toll hits 100,000

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Relatives of people who died from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are pictured next to new graves at the San Vicente cemetery, in Cordoba, Argentina, July 11, 2021. REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian

CORDOBA/BUENOS AIRES, July 14 (Reuters) – In the San Vicente cemetery in the central Argentine city of Cordoba, Sandra del Valle Pereyra, 50, has come to visit the graves of her parents who both died from COVID-19 that has ripped through the South American nation.

“I have been left alone,” Valle Pereyra told Reuters, saying that she and her siblings were isolating from one another to avoid contagion. “First my mother died and then my father. I don’t know what to feel any more about this terrible disease.”

Argentina has been one of the hardest-hit countries in the region in terms of cases and deaths per capita, with some 4.7 million confirmed infections and a death toll from the pandemic that hit 100,000 on Wednesday. (Graphic on cases and deaths)

Daily average cases have fallen since a peak last month and ICU bed occupancy is coming down, though still above 60% nationwide.

“Every life that has gone is a great regret for me,” President Alberto Fernandez said in a speech last week. “I guarantee that we are not going to stop in these months vaccinating each and every Argentine man and woman.”

While developed countries like the United States have reduced fatalities with rapid inoculation programs, countries in South America have topped the charts for daily per capita cases and deaths, with vaccines rollouts stalled by slow supply.

Argentina, a country of some 45 million people, has carried out 25.7 million vaccine jabs, though only around 5 million people are inoculated with the full two doses, mainly using Russia’s Sputnik V, AstraZeneca’s (AZN.L) vaccine and China’s Sinopharm (1099.HK).

The vaccine rollout is raising hopes that the country can control the pandemic, but the more contagious Delta variant is igniting surges in cases even in countries like Israel with high vaccination rates, causing them to rethink their vaccination campaigns. read more

‘RELATIVES CALL US CRYING’

The pandemic has sharpened an economic crisis already existing in Argentina, which has been largely stuck in recession since 2018 with rampant inflation, strict capital controls and a weak peso currency sparking an outflow of dollars.

“It’s not just the pandemic drowning us in this country. There is also the huge economic crisis,” said Gastón Rusichi, 34, from a team of firefighters in Cordoba who have taken charge of transferring the dead during the pandemic.

“Many relatives call us crying, not only because of the death, but because they don’t have the money… to be able to give a burial as a person deserves,” added Rusichi, who works 12-hour shifts in a biohazard suit for safety.

Argentina’s government reimposed lockdown measures earlier this year amid a steep second wave of infections, some of which have since been rolled back. It has a strict cap on arrivals at the border in a bid to keep out contagious virus variants.

Ezequiel González, a 35-year-old worker in Buenos Aires suburb Tigre, said that it was hard to see how the country could have stopped the pandemic given the need to balance restrictions while battling rising poverty levels.

“We would all have had to lock ourselves up completely and that’s very difficult. You have to go out to the street to earn money to be able to eat and survive,” he said.

A local laboratory is now starting to produce Sputnik V to speed up inoculations and the country recently sealed a deal for 20 million doses of Moderna’s (MRNA.O) vaccine. read more

Lautaro Fabian Gomez, 20, however, said lax attitudes by some people going out into crowded areas without wearing face masks was stymieing improvements.

“It makes me very angry and helpless,” he said. “It seems to me that if this is how we act then we are going to have the coronavirus here until 2050.”

Reporting by Agustín Marcarian and Miguel Lo Bianco; Written by Lucila Sigal; Editing by Nicolas Misculin, Adam Jourdan and Lisa Shumaker