Dr Carissa Etienne
Dr Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), has said rates of covid19 infection in the Americas are decreasing.
She was speaking at a webinar on Wednesday.
PAHO reported 700,000 new cases and 13,000 deaths related to covid19 in the last week, continuing the downward trend.
However, cases in Trinidad and Tobago, Colombia, Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Barbados, Cayman Islands and Dominica continue to increase.
Dr Ciro Ugarte, PAHO director of health emergencies, said the increase is worrying, but most Caribbean countries have mortality rates below two per cent.
“It has been shown the pandemic has been controlled quite well in the Caribbean, but it is important to keep track of the beds in the intensive care units now the economies are reopening.”
Ugarte said the return of children to physical classes is a significant advance in all countries, but recommended health measures and control of community cases be maintained to avoid complications.
He said vaccination levels and identifying variants of concern will be very important.
In this regard, Etienne highlighted the 48 per cent of the people in Latin America are already vaccinated, while Jamaica, St Vincent and Guatemala with one of of five inhabitants, Nicaragua, with less than ten per cent of the population vaccinated,and Haiti, with less than one per cent, remain the main challenges for the region.
She recognised the Caribbean is seeing an increase in vaccine reluctance, and many people are tired of the pandemic: “But we cannot lower our guard.
“We developed three scenarios: if there is low vaccination coverage, there could be high infection rates; there could be a fluctuation in the levels of cases with the relaxation of measures; and the optimal one, where there is constant implementation of public health measures and an increase in effective vaccination. It is the latter we want to achieve to end covid19,” said Etienne.
On vaccines, she said, “We are working with the manufacturers to reach agreements to supply more doses.”
She said three providers have received approvals from the World Health Organization (WHO), with which they are reaching agreements to include them in the Covax vaccine-distribution mechanism.
In addition, she said, “We are working with public and private institutions in Argentina and Brazil to manufacture and produce vaccines for our region and increase regional and future capacity.”
Etienne recommended the construction of resilient health systems focused on the primary level of care, where diseases are detected.”Underinvestment has been chronic for the region’s health system and this covid19 pandemic has made it clear to us the investments in health services are essential,” she said.
She reported Chile, Uruguay and Peru are investing in public spending in their health systems with a focus on primary care.
Dr Jarbas Barbosa, deputy director of PAHO, said some countries are having problems with syringe production and this situation has limited access to syringes worldwide.
But, he said, “We have agreements with syringe producers, with more than 400 million that are already committed under PAHO’s revolving fund.”
Dr Sylvain Aldighieri, incident director for covid19, said PAHO is closely following the development of solutions to treat covid19 with some antiviral drugs that represent important results in decreasing hospitalisation rates.