We cannot get back the time we’ve lost to this pandemic, but we can control how the future will go.
— PAHO/WHO (@pahowho) February 2, 2022
“However, the rise in infections seems to be slowing down in places hit earliest by the Omicron variant”.
North America recorded more than four million new infections, accounting for most of the latest cases, as surges continue across Central and South America, where Chile and Brazil have posted record numbers of daily cases.
Moreover, deaths have risen for the fourth consecutive week in all subregions, showing a nearly 33 per cent growth over the previous week.
In the Caribbean, deaths have more than doubled in Cuba, the Bahamas, and Antigua and Barbuda, while other islands, like Martinique and Guadeloupe, are seeing COVID spread rapidly among young and unvaccinated people.
“These trends show that we must continue to sustain every part of our COVID response”, said Dr. Etienne. “Vaccinations, testing, and continuing public health measures like mask wearing and social distancing remain crucial”.
Unequal vaccine coverage
Crediting the hard-fought efforts of countries throughout the Americas and generous support of donors, she said that 63 per cent of people across Latin America and the Caribbean have now been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.
However, while the region has some of the world’s highest COVID-19 vaccination coverage, Dr. Etienne pointed out that “despite our progress”, vaccination remains highly uneven across Latin America and the Caribbean.
It is “a worrisome sign” that more than one in four people across the Americas “have yet to receive a single dose of protection”, she said.
Data ‘blind spots’
While 14 States and territories have fully immunized 70 per cent of their populations, the same number have yet to protect even 40 per cent of theirs.
And more than 54 per cent of people in low and middle-income countries have yet to receive a single COVID-19 vaccine.
“We also have serious blind spots because we can’t see detailed vaccination data”, she continued, encouraging countries to collect and report data coverage by age, sex and by risk group, where possible.
“Without these numbers, we won’t know what proportion of high-risk groups, like the elderly, pregnant women, or health workers, have been protected”.
As data is crucial to designing targeted vaccination campaigns, maximizing the impact of vaccine doses, and saving live, without it, there are some worrisome gaps.
Vaccines for all
Fortunately, with donations totalling some 26 million doses, vaccine supplies are expected to pick up this year.
PAHO’s Revolving Fund, which has delivered almost 100 million doses, is on track to obtain 200 million vaccines this year, thanks to the Fund’s agreements with manufacturers.
Due to a rapid scale up in purchases, donations, and COVAX deliveries, countries will have enough stock to implement mass rollouts and offer vaccines to those as yet unprotected.