WASHINGTON, DC, USA, Tues. Mar. 23, 2021– Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director, Dr. Carissa Etienne, announced that PAHO has delivered over 2.2 million doses of vaccines through the COVAX facility, yet there continues to be an increase in COVID-19 cases in the Americas.
Neighboring Guatemala has been experiencing a recent surge in cases. According to PAHO, health centers across Guatemala have been facing a strain in hospital bed capacity due to the influx of newly admitted patients.
Within the Caribbean, a majority of cases have been reported in Jamaica, following a steady increase in cases for several weeks. The countries of Cuba, Aruba, Curacao, and Antigua and Barbuda have also experienced a constant rise in cases.
In South America, the trend is similar. The virus spread is astronomical in Brazil, as a result of the Brazilian variant, which has wreaked havoc. This has led to more cases in Brazil’s neighboring countries, like Venezuela and Peru.
Cases continue to spike in Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay. In Paraguay, most ICU beds are occupied, and “the health system is buckling under the pressure,” said Dr. Etienne. Uruguay consistently reported more than 1000 cases per day in the past few weeks, which PAHO finds alarming given the size of the country.
In the most recent PAHO press briefing, Dr. Etienne stated, “What I’ve just described is an active public health emergency. The COVID-19 virus is not receding, nor is the pandemic starting to go away.”
“Vaccines are coming but they are still several months away for most people in our region,” said the PAHO Director. Although vaccines are to be deployed, until they arrive and a majority of the population has been inoculated, preventative measures must still be taken.
PAHO expects over 100,000 vaccine doses to be delivered to El Salvador, Belize and Suriname. Etienne, however, still recommends for everyone to continue to follow the known preventive measures in this fight against COVID. These measures include washing hands, wearing masks, isolation and avoiding heavily crowded places.
In her closing remarks, Dr. Carissa Etienne said, “Once our supply increases, there is not another region in the world better prepared to deliver vaccines swiftly and safely.” She stated that the Americas have had a long tradition of, and expertise in, dealing with vaccines. The Americas have well-established immunization systems in place.