Covid pandemic may be much worse in 2021 for Latin America

Latin America and the Caribbean, Featured, Population, Health, Latest News

PAHO has been able to channel resources to fight covid-19 in Latin America and the Caribbean, but it needs support to vaccinate hundreds of millions of people while trying to prevent the scourge from spreading. Photo: PAHO

WASHINGTON, 13 ene 2021 (IPS) – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warned that 2021 may be much worse than 2020 if public health measures against covid-19 are relaxed, since vaccines will not be massively available at least until the second semester.

Carissa Etienne, Director of the OPS, stated this Wednesday the 13th that “if we continue to be diligent, we have the power to control this virus, but if we relax, make no mistake, 2021 can be much worse than 2020.”

In Latin America and the Caribbean so far, almost 16 million people have contracted the disease and more than 500,000 have died, despite measures such as strong quarantines, information campaigns and increased efforts to care for the victims of the coronavirus.

A more aggressive variant of this virus, detected in late 2020 in the United Kingdom, is already present in six countries of the region, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Jamaica, Mexico and Peru, and another variant, identified in South Africa, appeared in Brazil .

PAHO said that, at the moment, there is no evidence that these variants cause a more serious disease “but they have the potential to collapse hospitals with more patients.”

The vaccines that have emerged to counteract the covid have only begun to be applied in four countries of the region (Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica and Mexico), and in none has even one percent of the population been vaccinated, since it is available very limited amounts of doses.

The Covax initiative, a mechanism used by most states in the world to obtain and distribute equitably 2 billion doses this year, will not begin distributing vaccines until March and the arrival of the largest batches in the region is expected in the second half of the year.

Etienne insisted, during a press conference in this capital, that as long as the number of vaccines remains small, they cannot be relied on to flatten the curve that shows the increasing cases of covid throughout the hemisphere.

PAHO also called on governments to act in a transparent and scientifically-based manner to control the pandemic, since placing politics above the public interest in health can cost lives.

“Politicizing vaccines and other control measures is not only useless, it could fuel the virus and cost lives,” Etienne said.

On the other hand, the organization reported that it received commitments for more than 263 million dollars since 2020 to offer technical support and supplies as part of the fight against covid.

These include direct financial support, contributions channeled through the World Health Organization, and agreements negotiated with PAHO Member States, backed by various international financial institutions.

Partners who donated a combined $ 91 million include the governments of Belize, Canada, Colombia, Korea, Spain, the United States, Japan, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the European Commission.

The WHO channeled contributions for 101 million dollars and the rest corresponded to deliveries made by the member states to support health initiatives against the covid in their own territories.

Ciro Ugarte, PAHO Director of Health Emergencies, said that “although we have been able to offer supplies and provide training that have been fundamental in reducing the incidence of cases and treating patients, we have enormous challenges, which will require continued support.”

“We need resources to help States vaccinate more than 465 million people in 39 countries and territories in 2021. And, while the vaccine is distributed, we will have to maintain aid to limit the transmission of covid-19, reduce mortality and provide essential health services ”, explained Ugarte.


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