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“We are still way behind where we should be as a Region”
PAHO Director Carissa F. Etienne on Thursday briefed leaders of PROSUR, the Forum for the Progress and Development of South America, on COVID-19 vaccine supply and procurement advances, saying, “PAHO shares your great concerns for equity of access to vaccines particularly for middle and low-income countries and we continue to advocate strongly for the LAC countries.”
“I also acknowledge the tremendous effort of the PROSUR countries in ensuring planning and readiness for the introduction of COVID 19 vaccines in your respective countries,” Dr. Etienne said.
The PROSUR virtual meeting today included presidents and leaders from Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, and Peru, Suriname, and Uruguay.
Dr. Etienne explained that the supply arrangement between the Revolving Fund and the vaccines’ manufacturer, SK Bio, was finalized yesterday and that PAHO will progress “rapidly with price estimates and purchase orders.” Dr. Etienne stated, “I take this opportunity to urge each of you Excellencies to ensure that your country completes readiness requirements, process approvals and funds transfer, in a timely manner. “
“Despite the vigorous steps being taken to deliver vaccines as quickly as possible, we are still way behind where we should be as a Region. It is only by acting together, in solidarity, that we can ensure that the Region has equitable access to vaccines. No country is safe until all are safe,” Dr. Etienne said.
PAHO is preparing to deliver the first COVID-19 vaccines procured for countries in the Americas through COVAX, the global mechanism working to ensure equitable access to the vaccines, as soon as they are available.
COVAX is expected to send letters this week to participating countries, confirming their allocation of vaccines and including the number of doses that countries will receive. This would be coupled with explanations of the allocation process, the legal and regulatory steps that countries should take, and upcoming key supply chain steps.
PAHO’s Revolving Fund has been leading efforts on behalf of regional countries to purchase vaccines through COVAX.
Encouraging support for coming together as a Region to address total needs for vaccines, Dr. Etienne said “PAHO will be reaching out to our partners, Regional and sub-regional financing institutions among others and our Member States…” She called for strengthening the Revolving Fund, “which has provided vaccines to countries of LAC for forty years and has accumulated vast experience and knowledge.”
While vaccine supply for the first and second quarters of 2021 will be limited, increased supply is expected by the third quarter. Dr. Etienne also reiterated her call for making access to vaccines in the Americas a “top global priority.”
“Our Region has been hit harder by the pandemic than any other, and millions remain vulnerable to infection and death. The life-saving power of vaccines should not be a privilege for the few, but a right for all – especially the countries at greatest risk like those in the Americas, which remains the epicenter of the pandemic.”
The PROSUR leaders issued a “Call for strengthening and effective implementation of the COVAX (Collaboration for Global Equitable Access to COVID-19 Vaccines) mechanism, especially the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization (Gavi) and the World Health Organization (WHO), with a view to achieving greater and faster access to the COVID-19 vaccine, including by supporting countries in negotiations with laboratories.”