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Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Dr Carissa F Etienne.

As the global demand for COVID-19 vaccines continues and countries compete to acquire various brands – the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) has moved to increase accessibility and ensure equity as its’ Revolving Fund is now accepting requests from countries in the region for vaccines for the last three months of 2021 and the calendar year of 2022.

At least 20 countries have already expressed interest and the numbers are growing daily in this latest arrangement.

Disclosing this during the PAHO regional media briefing yesterday, Director Dr Carissa Etienne continued to appeal to persons to come forward and be vaccinated as it could reduce the severity of the virus if contracted and save lives.

She explained, “The Revolving Fund is a mechanism for providing high quality vaccines at competitive prices, and prices which countries can afford.”

It is expected that tens of millions of COVID-19 vaccines will be made available through this latest initiative, beyond the 20 per cent currently being offered through the COVAX arrangement.

Declaring it unacceptable that close to six months after COVID-19 vaccines first arrived in the region – there continued to be a disparity relating to vaccine access – she said to date, “Fewer than 20 per cent of people in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully immunized, and in some countries, that number is less than five per cent.”

Adding that this disparity is dangerous as variants circulate and multiply, she said everyone must join hands as lives hang in the balance.

She said, “We are living in a constrained global vaccine market. Throughout the first six months of this year, most of the countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have been unable to access enough vaccines.”

While some countries have been able to strike bi-lateral deals with vaccine manufacturers; and others benefiting from vaccine donations, Etienne stressed, “These donations are more than a display of solidarity. For some countries, they are the only hope of saving lives and we need more donations.”

Revealing that countries in the Americas had access to PAHO’s Revolving Fund which was part of the technical cooperation package which consolidated “vaccine demand from 41 Member States and territories to leverage more affordable pricing and ensure availability of high quality vaccines to reach every corner of our region,” Etienne said this fund has been a catalyst for equity and solidarity in protecting millions of children across the hemisphere from vaccine preventable diseases.

The Fund procures and delivers vaccines on behalf of the COVAX Facility; delivers vaccines donated through COVAX and supporting bi-lateral donations when requested, and has been providing complimentary access to vaccines to achieve high coverage during the pandemic.

Despite this, she admitted, “The region is still short of the doses to turn the tide of the pandemic.”

Over the past week, more than 1.3 million new COVID-19 cases and more than 19,000 COVID-related deaths were reported in the Americas.

Regarding the Caribbean, Etienne said, “We are witnessing a similar story in the more populous islands.”

Reporting an increase in cases in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Martinique and the Bahamas – it was reported that infections had risen by 34 per cent in the past month in Martinique, leading to significant hospitalizations being required.

It is a similar case in Dominica, the PAHO head claimed.

Indicating positive trends had been observed across much of South America as there has been an overall decline in both cases and deaths in the Andean Region and also Brazil.

Meanwhile, substantial drops in cases have been recorded in Colombia, Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay.