Wed | Dec 6, 2023

COVID-19 kills more than 1 million in Latin America and the Caribbean

Published:Saturday | May 22, 2021 | 6:14 PMCMC
Dr Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization.

The director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr Carissa Etienne, says that more than one million people in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) have died from COVID-19, since pandemic began in March 2020.

In making the declaration on Friday, the Dominican-born director called for the world to intensify efforts to improve the region's access to vaccines. 

“This is a tragic milestone for everyone in the region. The pandemic is far from over, and it is hitting Latin America and the Caribbean severely, affecting our health, our economies and entire societies,” she added. “Yet, only about three per cent of our citizens have been vaccinated.”

According to figures reported by countries as of Friday, 1,001,781 people have died as a result of from COVID-19 in the LAC. 

PAHO said almost 89 per cent of the deaths occurred in five countries: Brazil (44.3 per cent), México (22.1 per cent), Colombia (8.3 per cent), Argentina (7.3 per cent) and Peru (6.7 per cent). 

Three percent of the deaths were concentrated in Central America and one percent in the Caribbean, PAHO said. 

“The region is an epicentre for COVID-19 suffering. It should be an epicentre for vaccination, too,”  Etienne said. 

She said 153.5 million people have been immunised in the Americas, but only 21.6 per cent of these are in LAC.

In contrast, in the United States, vaccination has been widespread, and marked improvements are already being observed, said  Etienne, who added that almost half of Americans have received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose and nearly 85 per cent of those over the age of 85 are fully protected.

She said the result has been a sharp reduction in COVID-19 infections, deaths and hospitalisations. 

“The progress we're seeing in the US is a testament to the power of safe and effective COVID vaccines,” she said. "But it underscores the vital importance of accelerating access to vaccines throughout our region, so that other countries can fully immunise their populations.”

She continued: “We urgently need more vaccines for Latin America and the Caribbean, a region which has been sorely tested by this pandemic,”  Etienne urged, while congratulating countries that have indicated a willingness to donate tens of millions of excess vaccine doses and called for other countries to follow suit. 

“We urge countries with extra doses to consider donating a significant portion of these to the Americas, where these life-saving doses are desperately needed and will be promptly used,” she said. 

PAHO said that it has delivered more than 12 million COVAX-procured vaccine doses to countries in the LAC. 

Another 770,000 doses are on the way to Central American and Caribbean countries, it said. 

Etienne also called for people to continue to observe public health measures, including wearing masks, maintain physical distance from others, maintain hand hygiene, and ventilating closed spaces, where possible. 

She urged people to get vaccinated, adding, “Vaccines are safe and effective and a major tool to stop this pandemic.”

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