Covid- Officials from the World Health Organization warned on Wednesday that the number of 19 cases is increasing in many Central American and Caribbean countries, and they urged richer countries to increase vaccine donations to a region where immunisation rates remain dangerously low.
In the words of Dr. Carissa Etienne, the director of the Pan American Health Organization, which is a component of the World Health Organisation (W.H.O. ), the Americas have become “a region divided by vaccine access.”
Countries with higher vaccination rates, such as Costa Rica, Uruguay, and Chile, are seeing significant reductions in the number of cases, whereas other countries are experiencing vastly different outcomes.
Only 15 percent of people in Central America and the Caribbean have received a complete Covid-19 vaccination, and the figure is even lower in some countries, such as Honduras and Haiti, where the figure is less than 1 percent.
Many Caribbean countries are experiencing an increase in cases, including Cuba, where infections and deaths have been on the rise, as well as a recent outbreak of street protests against the government, which has been the most severe in several decades.
“Cuba is currently experiencing the highest number of confirmed cases of Covid-19” in the region, according to Ciro Ugarte, the Pan American Health Organization’s director of health emergencies. A total of more than 43,000 new cases were reported for the current week in a country with a population of less than 12 million people, representing a 21 percent increase over the previous week, and the authorities have confirmed that the highly contagious Delta variant is circulating in several provinces.
Other Caribbean countries are also reporting increases in the number of visitors. The number of cases in Martinique, for example, has more than tripled in the last week, with many involving “young people in their 20s,” according to Dr. Etienne.
The majority of Central American countries are also experiencing a significant increase in coronavirus cases, with Guatemala reporting high rates of hospitalisation and neighbouring Honduras experiencing an increase in cases along its border. Also in the Amazonian states of Colombia and Peru, there are hotspots for illicit drug trafficking.
According to Dr. Etienne, “Covid-19 has become entrenched in our region, particularly in countries with low vaccination coverage, and the spread of variants is only making matters worse.”
There was some welcome news out of Haiti, which has been engulfed in political unrest since the assassination of the country’s president two weeks earlier. A total of 500,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine, donated by the United States through the Covax vaccine-sharing mechanism, were delivered to Pakistan on Friday, two days after it received the vaccine.
In his remarks, Dr. Etienne stated that “we clearly need more vaccines, and we need them now.” He went on to say that donations are “really the only way for many countries in our region to secure the doses that they require quickly.”
It has pledged to donate approximately 12 million doses to Latin America and the Caribbean, and it has already delivered approximately 4.5 million doses to Honduras, El Salvador, Bolivia and Haiti as part of this effort.
Officials expect to receive doses from Spain and Canada as well, and they are hopeful that other countries, such as France, will contribute to the donation effort as well.
“We want to express our gratitude to all countries that have shared vaccines with our region, but the reality is that we require more,” Dr. Etienne stated. “Please don’t wait until you have a surplus of doses before calling. Vaccines are not a privilege reserved for a select few; they are a fundamental human right.”