WASHINGTON DC, USA, Wed. May 5, 2021– COVID-19 was initially seen as a virus that primarily afflicted older members of the population. Recent studies show, however, that the paradigm is shifting as more at-risk and elderly folks are being vaccinated and new COVID-19 variants are being introduced to the Americas.
The Americas have been most susceptible to the coronavirus, according to Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) statistics. PAHO says that one in four of the total COVID-19 deaths reported worldwide are in the Americas. Nearly every country in the Central American region has reported a rise in the number of cases of the virus over the past week – with Belize recording a total of 22 new cases, which is its largest number of cases since the start of 2021.
Also, more countries in the region are reporting an increased number of cases of the virus among younger members of the populations. This is most likely due to the limited vaccine coverage given to this group. The Director of PAHO, Dr. Carissa Etienne, said, “In Brazil, mortality rates have doubled among those younger than 39, quadrupled among those in their 40s, and tripled for those in their 50s between December 2020 and March 2021.” She went on to say, “This is tragic, and the consequences are dire for our families, our societies and our future.”
Medical professionals report that the shift in age of those afflicted with the virus has greatly impacted the day-to-day operations of health institutions. A PAHO release stated, “Since healthy young people are more likely to survive, they may remain in hospitals for weeks… As a result, countries must be prepared for surging hospital demand.” Healthcare centers across the Americas are struggling to cope with the influx of patients. Furthermore, people within these younger age groups generally have a longer stay at the hospitals than those over 60, which greatly reduces the capacity of healthcare systems.
The Director of PAHO further remarked, “PAHO is orienting our countries to plan on coping with sudden increases in the consumption of critical inputs such as oxygen, intubation drugs, personal protective equipment, and infusion pumps.”
Additionally, further studies show that some new variants impact younger generations more than the initial strain of the virus. CNN has reported that the U.K. variant, that has become more predominant in the U.S.A., is disproportionately affecting young people. This has also been the trend in many South American countries, as the Brazil variant is believed to greatly impact younger populations.
On a more optimistic note, Dr. Etienne outlined that over the course of the next few weeks, countries are expected to receive their second shipment of COVAX-issued vaccines. Despite the limited amount of vaccines available, PAHO stated that most countries should see a significant increase in doses as opposed to their first package received.