PAHO chief briefs Guyanese, Surinamese leaders on COVID-19 vaccine supply

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PAHO director, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne

BROOKLYN, NY– The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) says its director, Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, on Thursday briefed the leaders of Guyana and Suriname and their counterparts in PRO SUR, the Forum for the Progress and Development of South America, on COVID-19 vaccine supply and procurement advances.

“PAHO shares your great concerns for equity of access to vaccines, particularly for middle and low-income countries, and we continue to advocate strongly for the LAC (Latin America and the Caribbean) countries,” Dr. Etienne said.

“I also acknowledge the tremendous effort of the PRO SUR countries in ensuring planning and readiness for the introduction of COVID 19 vaccines in your respective countries.”

Besides Guyana and Suriname, PAHO said the PRO SUR virtual meeting included presidents and leaders from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Uruguay.

Dr. Etienne explained that the supply arrangement between the Revolving Fund and the vaccines’ manufacturer, SK Bio, was finalized on Wednesday and that PAHO will progress “rapidly with price estimates and purchase orders.”

“I take this opportunity to urge each of you, Excellencies, to ensure that your country completes readiness requirements, process approvals, and funds transfer promptly,” she said.

“Despite the vigorous steps being taken to deliver vaccines as quickly as possible, we are still way behind where we should be as a region,” she added. “It is only by acting together, in solidarity, that we can ensure that the region has equitable access to vaccines. No country is safe until all are safe.”

PAHO said that it is preparing to deliver the first COVID-19 vaccines procured for countries in the Americas, including the Caribbean, through COVAX, the global mechanism working to ensure equitable access to the vaccines as soon as they are available.

COVAX is expected to send letters this week to participating countries, confirming their allocation of vaccines and including the number of doses that countries will receive, PAHO said.

This would be coupled with explanations of the allocation process, the legal and regulatory steps that countries should take, and upcoming key supply chain steps.

PAHO said its Revolving Fund has been leading efforts on behalf of regional countries to purchase vaccines through COVAX.

Encouraging support for coming together as a region to address total needs for vaccines, Dr. Etienne said, “PAHO will be reaching out to our partners, regional and sub-regional financing institutions, among others, and our member states.”

She called for strengthening the Revolving Fund, “which has provided vaccines to countries of LAC for 40 years and has accumulated vast experience and knowledge.”

While vaccine supply for the first and second quarters of 2021 will be limited, PAHO said increased supply is expected by the third quarter.

The PAHO director also reiterated her call for making access to vaccines in the Americas a “top global priority.”

“Our region has been hit harder by the pandemic than any other, and millions remain vulnerable to infection and death,” she said.

“The life-saving power of vaccines should not be a privilege for the few but a right for all, especially the countries at greatest risk, like those in the Americas, which remains the epicenter of the pandemic,” Dr. Etienne added.

PAHO said the PRO SUR leaders issued a “call for strengthening and effective implementation of the COVAX (Collaboration for Global Equitable Access to COVID-19 Vaccines) mechanism, especially the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO), to achieve greater and faster access to the COVID-19 vaccine, including by supporting countries in negotiations with laboratories.”

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