Dr. Carrisa Etienne

WASHINGTON, DC, United States (CMC) – Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Dr Carissa Etienne said Wednesday that misinformation is one of the most serious threats to public health and it is most damaging when it fuels vaccine hesitancy.

“Every person in a vulnerable group that is hesitant to get the vaccine can become part of the sad statistics, one of the thousands of deaths that occur daily due to COVID-19,” she told a news conference.

“Vaccines are saving lives now and will contribute to control transmission in the near future when we achieve high immunisation coverage,” the Dominican-born PAHO director added.

She said reports of very rare unexpected side effects from some COVID-19 vaccines should not make people hesitate to get immunised.

“The vaccines delivered through COVAX [COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access] have been thoroughly assessed by the WHO [World Health Organization] experts. The benefits of these vaccines in preventing infections, hospitalisations, and deaths outweigh the risks of side effects,” Dr Etienne said.

“Because unreliable information spreads quickly, PAHO is collaborating with tech companies like Twitter, Google, and Facebook to address fake news and ensure the public can easily find accurate information,” she added.

The PAHO director said the tragic milestone of more than three million deaths from COVID, nearly half of them in the Americas, “is a reminder that we must do more to protect each other because this virus continues to be a threat in every corner and community across our region”