PAHO asks countries to include immunization against COVID-19 in their national vaccination systems

On the eve of the celebration of Vaccination Week in the Americas from April 23 to 30, the director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) called on countries this Wednesday to integrate their vaccination efforts against COVID-19 in their routine immunization systems.

Carissa Etienne recalled that during the launch of the coronavirus vaccines, countries established emergency systems, so “now, we can take advantage of this infrastructure and merge it with our routine immunization systems so that make it more convenient and affordable for families to catch up on all their immunizations at once”.

As an example, he explained that PAHO’s Revolving Fund has delivered some 15 million doses of influenza vaccine to nine countries in the region that continue to strengthen their vaccination efforts.

After announcing that 14 countries in the region have already reached the WHO goal of vaccinating 70% of their population before the deadline of June 30 and that eight more achieved 60% coverage, the director of the Organization highlighted that in some parts of the continent immunization has slowed down or stagnated.

“In the Caribbean, less than 30% of the population completed their first dose in Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Saint Lucia. And in Latin America, Guatemala, Guyana and Paraguay have not yet reached half of their population. We now have enough vaccine supplies to meet demand throughout our region.”

IMF/Raphael Alves

A man wears a mask to protect himself from COVID-19 in the port of Manaus, in the Brazilian Amazon.

The general decline in cases and deaths continues, although it increases in North America

Regarding the evolution of the disease during the last seven days, Etienne reported a slight drop of 2.3% in cases compared to the previous week and a decrease of 15.7% during the same period.

Despite this positive data, it reported that the number of cases detected in North America in the last week grew by 11.2% and that hospitalizations in Canada increased by 20% due to the increase in cases of the omicron variant BA.2 .

Given the low numbers of cases and deaths recorded in recent weeks, Etienne recalled that “the time to lower our guard” has not yet come and that, according to the recent decision of the WHO Emergency Committee, COVID-19 remains a public health contingency of international importance.

“We are still in the phase in which we need to make an effort to end this virus, treat people and continue vaccinating,” said PAHO’s Director of Health Emergencies.

Dr. Ciro Ugarte added that “as a region and as a world we have not yet reached the levels we need so that this virus does not continue to cause cases and deaths (…) The only way to end this acute phase is to achieve high vaccination coverage, maintain surveillance and have good clinical management.

Given the decision of some countries in the region to lift the state of health emergency due to COVID-19, Ugarte differentiated between the announcement of the end of the pandemic “which does not correspond to an individual country”, and that of the end of an emergency. declared by a country in the face of a disease, which does concern it.

“If the country has low community transmission, high response capacity, high vaccination coverage, a very low number of deaths (…) and few positive cases, then we are in a position to be able, perhaps some countries, to declare the end of the emergency” , specific.

Regarding the mandatory use of masks indoors, he indicated that the recommendation “remains in force in all conditions” and that its use is still recommended “in any scenario.”

“We have seen that in some of the countries they have reduced the use of masks to voluntary levels, and at the same time they have reduced the detection of cases. This is contradictory. In such a way that they have to be associated with several mechanisms”, she concluded.