by Clive Bacchus
St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Director of the Pan American Health Organization PAHO, Dr. Carissa Etienne is warning that the spike in COVID-19 cases in the region point to authorities failing to enforce agreed on mechanisms to contain the spread of the coronavirus.
“In the last week, we saw more than 2.5 million new cases of COVID-19 in the region of the Americas, that is more than half of all global infections. In the same period, 42,000 people from the Americas have lost their lives to the pandemic. This sustained boom in cases is sobering proof that our region and our world is failing to control this Coronavirus. In fact too many places, public policies are not congruent with the severity of the situation and many of us have relaxed the control measures which we know work which has helped us stay healthy and kept hospitals functioning up to now.”
She said health systems in the region could be overrun if current trends continue.
“Throughout our region, especially North and South America many hospitals are operating at or very close to capacity. The reports from Manaus in Brazil illustrate what happens when a health system lacks enough capacity to cope with the speed of new infections. But not just Manaus that is at risk, we’ve had reports of oxygen being rationed in some locations in the United States of America and Peru. In fact, ICU occupancy rate stands at 90 percent in some parts of Peru, several locations in Brazil and in Ecuador are operating close to their limit. In Mexico City, the majority of beds are occupied by COVID-19 patients and hospital capacity continues to be challenged in countries of the southern call like Chile, Argentina, and Uraguay.
“In the Caribbean, the first week of 2021 saw the highest number of cases reported since the beginning of the pandemic. Barbados had a 61 percent increase in new cases over the past two weeks, mostly among the local population. And as cases rise, so does the demand for testing, severely stressing laboratory capacity.”
The COVID -19 Vaccines Global Access Facility (COVAX) has agreements to deploy 2 billion doses this year to all participating countries at the same time, Dr. Etienne said.
At least seven countries in the region have started vaccinating citizens through bilateral agreements others are getting ready to roll out vaccines when they become available.
“Countries only have a few weeks to prepare for the vaccine’s arrival, having a comprehensive, safe plan in place will greatly facilitate the successful vaccine rollout in any country. All member states participating in the COVAX facility are developing a national vaccine deployment plan that is adapted to their context and their population. This plan covers every step in a vaccine’s journey and every stakeholder is critical to its success. From the regulatory agencies that issue approvals and monitor safety data over time, to the logistic systems that coordinate delivery of doses and monitor the state of …systems. To the recruiting and training of staff so health personnel throughout the country know how to deliver the vaccines to the public campaigns to ensure that populations know where and when and why to receive their doses.”