Washington DC, USA, Wed. May 12, 2021– COVID-19 infections continue to surge in the Americas. Intensive care units of many nations in the region are nearing 100 percent occupancy. There is still limited access to ICU beds, oxygen and vaccine supplies. As a result, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has pledged to boost its support for the region.
In regard to the increased need for oxygen supplies in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Director of PAHO, Dr. Carissa Etienne, said, “A typical COVID patient can require up to 300,000 liters of oxygen during a 20-day hospital stay. Patients in critical care often need double that. So, it’s no surprise that the rise in hospitalizations across our region [is] triggering an unprecedented oxygen supply challenge throughout the Americas.” In response to the low levels of oxygen, the Pan American Health Organization has donated more than 7,000 pulse oximeters and nearly 2,000 oxygen concentrators to regional health facilities.
On Monday, May 10, the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital received packages of personal protective equipment, pulse oximeters and oxygen concentrators from PAHO.
Dr. Etienne stated, “We’re also helping countries safely scale their oxygen production and make needed investments in equipment updates, maintenance, and human resources so oxygen is consistently available, everywhere, now and into the future.”
The influx of patients into hospitals in the Americas has severely depleted the oxygen reserves. “This is a clear sign that transmission is far from being controlled in our region,” said Dr. Etienne. Additionally, traces of India’s B.1.617 variant were found in the Caribbean and Latin American countries of Aruba, St. Maarten, Guadeloupe, Panama and Argentina. This variant is often considered a more dangerous and easily transmissible variant of the coronavirus.
To support struggling health units in the region, PAHO has deployed over 400 emergency medical teams and has set up alternative medical care sites across 23 countries in the Americas. The World Health Organization also authorized the use of China’s Sinopharm vaccine after an in-depth review. Sinopharm will now join the Pfizer-BioNtech, AstraZeneca, Johnson and Johnson and Moderna jabs as the vaccines authorized for use by the UN health agency. This announcement expands the list of vaccines that countries can receive through the COVAX facility.