Jamaica and Guyana are among four Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) member countries slated to benefit from 1.3 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines recently donated by the United States, Canada, Germany and Spain.
Director of the Washington-based organisation, Dr Carissa Etienne, said the doses will be used to boost vaccination coverage in those two Caribbean Community (CARICOM) nations as well as Argentina and Honduras.
Additionally, she said PAHO is supporting Jamaica, along with Guatemala and Nicaragua, in finalising preparations to receive shipments being provided through the World Health Organisation (WHO) COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access (COVAX) Facility, and bilateral arrangements.
Etienne indicated that these undertakings form part of PAHO’s efforts to assist regional countries to meet the WHO’s 40 per cent global vaccination target for countries by year’s end. She informed that 29 countries and territories across the Americas have, to date, immunised 40 per cent or more of their populations against COVID-19. Additionally, she said 39 per cent of populations within Latin America and the Caribbean are fully vaccinated.
Despite this, the PAHO boss said coverage is much lower “in far too many [other] places.”
Etienne indicated that countries like Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Haiti in the Caribbean, and Guatemala and Nicaragua in Central America, have yet to vaccinate 20 per cent of their populations.
She said factors contributing to this include vaccine shortage due to unequal distribution; supply delays; shortage of syringes; and logistical challenges, noting that “vaccine hesitancy among some groups remains a problem”.
“As we have said before, vaccines will help end this pandemic and PAHO is committed to supporting every country in our region to reach and exceed WHO targets. We’re working to accelerate vaccine deliveries in our region – including COVAX-procured and donated doses – especially for countries where coverage remains low,” Etienne said.
The PAHO director said her organisation welcomes the gesture by several regional countries of sharing doses “so we can make the most of the available supplies”.
“As more vaccine doses are making their way to our region, we urge countries to make the necessary preparations, so these doses can be used as quickly as possible,” she added.