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Vaccine alone will not stop COVID surge

Vaccine alone will not stop COVID surge
Dr Carissa F. Etienne. (GP)

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WASHINGTON – The director of the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) Dr Carissa F. Etienne Wednesday urged countries to employ a “comprehensive strategy” of not only immunisation but also public health measures to curb the surging coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

She warned that COVID-19 vaccine deliveries to the Americas have slowed. Reports indicate that countries report more than 1.3 million new cases in the Americas while nearly 36 000 die from the disease in one week.

“I cannot stress this enough – for most countries, vaccines are not going to stop this wave of the pandemic,” Dr Etienne said during her weekly media briefing, adding “there are simply not enough of them available to protect everyone in the countries at greatest risk.

“Therefore, we need to stop transmission by any means possible with the tools we have at hand. This will require comprehensive strategies to both accelerate the rollout of vaccines and control the virus using proven public health measures,” she said referring to wearing masks, social distancing, and hand hygiene.

PAHO said that since March, its Revolving Fund has helped deliver more than three million doses of COVAX-procured vaccines to 28 countries.

The Revolving Fund negotiates, purchases, and arranges logistics for shipment of vaccines to the 36 countries that participate in COVAX.  So far in the Americas, including the Caribbean, more than 247 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered, including through deals countries made individually with vaccine producers.

But in the past few weeks, Dr Etienne said, constraints on producers of COVAX vaccines have slowed deliveries, and supplies are not expected to normalize for a few more weeks.

“In the meantime, we cannot rely on vaccines to control transmission,” she said, adding “PAHO is committed to working with member states to secure more vaccine doses for our region as soon as they are available to complement what countries have already purchased via bilateral deals and through the COVAX Facility.

“We will be here for countries at every step of the way, providing technical support to troubleshoot roadblocks, increase surveillance and monitor the safety and impact of COVID vaccines.”

Dr Etienne cautioned that the pandemic continues to surge across the Americas. In the past week, more than 1.3 million people were infected with the virus and nearly 36 000 people died from the disease. (CMC)