MIAMI (AP) – The Pan American Health Organization has held talks with the governments of developed countries and has asked them to donate their surplus coronavirus vaccines to Latin America and the Caribbean.
“We have emphasized the great needs of our region and its commitment,” PAHO Director Carissa Etienne said in a virtual conference. “We urge other countries to make similar commitments,” he said, referring to two recent donation announcements made by Spain and the United States.
Etienne’s statements come as infections and deaths increase in the region. In the last week, more than 1.4 million people contracted COVID-19 in the Americas and more than 36,000 died. This means that one in four deaths worldwide has been in the region, according to PAHO.
In addition, most countries have had difficulty obtaining vaccines, which have been monopolized by developed nations.
Spain recently announced that it will donate Latin America at least 7.5 million doses starting in July, when it expects to have at least half of its population immunized.
Etienne said that these doses will be distributed through the COVAX mechanism, created by the United Nations and other international organizations so that all countries have equitable access to the doses, but has been criticized for not having achieved its objective.
PAHO, through the Vaccine Revolving Fund, will supervise the distribution, but so far no specific country has been designated to receive them.
PAHO “will propose a strategy that is focused on equity, with special consideration for countries that have had limited access to the vaccine so far,” explained Etienne, who did not identify other countries with which he has held discussions.
The United States, for its part, said it will donate 60 million doses of AstraZeneca to other countries, after the Food and Drug Administration authorizes its use. He did not announce who the recipients will be. In March, Washington donated about 4 million doses to Mexico and Canada, which had requested help.
In the United States, it has been vaccinated so far with vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson.
So far, more than 317 million doses of vaccines have been applied in the Americas in 49 countries and territories, according to PAHO. However, only 7 million of that total has been compared through COVAX, which plans to deliver another 470,000 doses that are already on the way to Guatemala, Bolivia and Jamaica.
Between May and June, the mechanism expects to deliver another 7 million doses to nine countries that have begun to receive the second round of vaccines.