BROOKLYN, NY – The Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Director Carissa F Etienne, says that to date, more than one million people in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) have died from COVID-19.
“This is a tragic milestone for everyone in the region. The pandemic is far from over, and it is hitting Latin America and the Caribbean severely, affecting our health, our economies, and entire societies,” she added. “Yet, only about three percent of our citizens have been vaccinated.”
According to figures reported by countries as of Friday, 1,001,781 people have died due to the SARS-CoV-2 virus, or COVID-19, in LAC.
PAHO said almost 89 percent of the deaths occurred in five countries: Brazil (44.3 percent), México (22.1 percent), Colombia (8.3 percent), Argentina (7.3 percent), and Peru (6.7 percent).
Three percent of the deaths were concentrated in Central America and one percent in the Caribbean, PAHO said.
“The region is an epicenter for COVID-19 suffering. It should be an epicenter for vaccination, too,” Etienne said.
She said more than 153.5 million people had been immunized in the Americas, but only 21.6 percent are in LAC.
In contrast, in the United States, vaccination has been widespread, and marked improvements are already being observed, said Etienne. He added that almost half of the Americans, including the Caribbean, have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, and nearly 85 percent of those over 85 are fully protected.
She said the result had been a sharp reduction in COVID-19 infections, deaths, and hospitalizations.
“The progress we’re seeing in the US is a testament to the power of safe and effective COVID vaccines,” she said. But it underscores the vital importance of accelerating access to vaccines throughout our region so that other countries can fully immunize their populations.”
“We urgently need more vaccines for Latin America and the Caribbean, a region which this pandemic has sorely tested,” Etienne urged while congratulating countries that have indicated a willingness to donate tens of millions of excess vaccine doses and called on other countries to follow suit.
“We urge countries with extra doses to consider donating a significant portion of these to the Americas, where these life-saving doses are desperately needed and will be promptly used,” she said.
PAHO said that it had delivered more than 12 million COVAX-procured vaccine doses to countries in LAC.
Another 770,000 doses are on the way to Central American and Caribbean countries, it said.
Etienne also called on people to continue to observe public health measures, including wearing masks, social distancing, hand hygiene, and ventilating closed spaces when possible.
She urged people to get vaccinated when called on by national governments, adding, “Vaccines are safe and effective and a major tool to stop this pandemic.”