The Pan-American Health Organisation Director has called for more coronavirus vaccine donations in the region. She says the vaccines are urgently needed in the Americas, basically in regions that have been hardly hit by the pandemic, and three-quarters of the population are yet to be fully immunised.

According to the PAHO Director, Carissa Etienne, to ensure that every country in the Americas can successfully vaccinate 60 percent of their population, a total of 540 million doses will be required, hence the call for more vaccine donations to the region.

During the weekly virtual briefing, Carissa stated that, “We must expand vaccine access in our region, especially in the places that are lagging behind. The best way to protect against variants of concern, like the Delta variant, is to ensure more people are fully vaccinated everywhere”.

The Director said the pandemic has disproportionately affected the Americas, as it is home to four of the top 10 countries with the highest number of cases, and accounts for nearly a third of global deaths.

Over 1.6 million new coronavirus cases have been reported in the region and just under 22,000 deaths, in the past week.

Although the US has fully vaccinated more than half of its population, and Canada, Chile and Uruguay more than 60 percent, these nations are the exception and much of the Americas region lags behind, Etienne said.

“While every country in our region has begun administering COVID-19 vaccines, immunisations are following the fault lines of inequality that have long divided our region,” she said.

Etienne added that more than a third of countries in the region have yet to vaccinate 20 percent of their populations and the situation is even more severe in Central American countries like Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, where vaccination rates remain in the single digits.

The United States, Russia and China as well as other nations have shipped vaccine doses to countries in the region. Many doses have also come through the vaccine sharing mechanism COVAX but delays in production, export bans and limited vaccine supplies have meant that many countries are still awaiting the doses they expected months ago.

Despite high immunisation rates, COVID infections are on the rise again in North America, PAHO and hospitalisation rates among young people and adults under the age of 50 are higher than at any point in the pandemic.

While cases are on the decline in South America, infection rates are increasing in several Central American countries, especially Costa Rica and Belize, Etienne said. In the Caribbean, Jamaica is registering its highest ever death toll from the virus, and its hospitals have reached full capacity.