PAHO calls for regional self-sufficiency

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

PAHO director Dr Carissa Etienne.

The director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa F Etienne, has called on members to develop their capacity to manufacture medicines, vaccines and other key health products.

During the opening of the 170th session of PAHO’s executive committee, which takes place between June 20 and 24 in Washington, DC, she told member states, “We are learning that as a Region we must collectively embark on a sustainable and collaborative, rather than competitive, pathway to self-sufficiency.”

In light of covid19, Etienne discussed the need to decrease regional dependence on medicinal imports. Since the start of Covax in 2021, PAHO’s Revolving Fund for Vaccines has delivered over 142 million doses to countries in the Americas.

She said the fund “has enabled countries in the region, regardless of economic status, to access quality and safe vaccines at a single price.” The importance of the fund was also underlined given that the pandemic “exposed the deeply rooted fault lines of inequity and inequitable access to health that exist in our region.”

Etienne encouraged countries to enhance “long-term investment in public health in order to ensure universal health and improve the resilience of systems against future health threats.”

Referring to both financial and human capital of health sectors, PAHO said, “Continued underinvestment will hamper the more agile, consolidated, and efficient response to the next pandemic.”

Etienne says solidarity will be key “as we work together to re-engineer progress and return to an upward trajectory.”

This year, after the end of the Executive Committee, a one-day forum will be held, in which PAHO director-candidates will have the opportunity to present their vision for the organisation to member states, participating states and associate members. The executive committee, which meets twice annually, acts as the working party of the conference. The election of the PAHO director is scheduled to take place during the 30th Pan American Sanitary Conference (September 26-30), 2022. The elected person will assume office on February 1, 2023 and serve for an initial term of five years.