Washington, D.C., January 27, 2021 (PAHO)– Covid-19 is an easily transmitted virus that can lead to very serious and in some cases fatal illnesses; It is then, of no surprise that today, it surpassed a tragic milestone in 1,000,000 deaths in the Americas. In a press conference held today by Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Director, Dr. Carissa Ettienne expressed her sorrow as she states that the COVID-19 pandemic “has brought a triple crisis throughout our region as it has ravaged our health systems, fractured our social protection, and destabilized our economies. This loss… should serve as an urgent call that we must do more to protect ourselves and each other from getting sick. This includes strong calls to action to reinforce the public health measures that are needed now in each of the places that are seeing outbreaks,”.
Dr. Etienne and PAHO associates, expressed the dire need to be cautious and practice safety precautions during this time of social, economic and mental crisis. Among other measures, PAHO outlined key information on the vaccines and the distribution of such to the Americas. Vaccines are scheduled to be deployed to the Caribbean and Latin America as early as March; but all that glitters is rarely gold. As of now, there are not enough doses of COVID-19 vaccines for the entire population. As a result, the first batch deployed will be distributed based on the prioritization guidelines agreed upon by the country.
As a rule of thumb, among the first to receive the vaccines are the healthcare workers for they are at greater risk of being infected with and spreading COVID-19. These workers have been forced to work under intense and challenging conditions. They are essential to keeping communities safe and caring for those who require intensive care. The remaining prioritization of the distribution varies per country; World Health Organization (WHO) and the Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization (SAGE) provided frameworks to assist counties in choosing their priority groups based on their values, the epidemiological situation, and sociodemographic factors.
There are currently many producers of COVID-19 vaccines, but before dispersion, vaccines need to be prequalified by WHO. These vaccines go through multiple trial phases before being approved for mass use. These phases aims to provide: safety measures to prevent miscalculations and possible irregularities; determine efficacy of vaccine against disease; risk factors for varying cultural, and/or geographical factors; and dosage. These phases have precise methodology with accurate findings and conclusions. Even after deployment, they will continue to be monitored to identify any unexpected adverse effects that may have arised.
As of recent, the Pfizer vaccine is the only one that has been prequalified by WHO and is approved for use in the Americas. Other vaccines are currently under review like those of Moderna and Astrazeneca.
Due to the limited supply of vaccines in the first round of distribution, PAHO encourages all to continue to take preventative measures and avoid exposure as much as possible.
These vaccines are quite different from traditional vaccines, that were previously dead or weakened versions of a pathogen (bacteria, virus and other microbes that causes diseases) or dead or weakened versions of a pathogen of similar nature. The vaccines most commonly being used to treat COVID-19 (Pfizer and Moderna) makes use of mrna technology. This serves as an instruction to the body to make proteins/ antibodies to fight diseases.