Support Village Voice News With a Donation of Your Choice.
Washington, DC, September 30, 2021 (PAHO) – Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa F. Etienne today outlined key priorities to end the “most significant health crisis to affect our region in a century” and urged countries to work together to address the health, economic and social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“At a time of stark divisions across and within our countries, we cannot lose sight that better coordination will end this crisis more quickly, for all of us,” Dr. Etienne said at a virtual Special Meeting of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS).
Highlighting the disproportionate human and economic impact of the pandemic in the region, which has killed over 2.4 million people and led 22 million into poverty in the Americas, Dr. Etienne stressed that vaccines must be made available to all. “There is no path to recovery for any of us while our neighbors remain vulnerable and while variants circulate and multiply.”
Dr. Etienne outlined PAHO’s priorities to help address the impact of the pandemic, saying the first and most urgent one is expediting the delivery of COVAX-procured and donated vaccines to countries in the Americas to protect people from severe COVID-19 disease.
“As we continue to face delays in vaccine production – and many low- and middle-income countries worldwide await the doses they expected months ago – we must explore all possible avenues to accelerate access to vaccines,” she said.
The PAHO Revolving Fund, building on its 40-year trajectory to pool vaccine requirements and funding from countries in the region, is working directly with manufacturers to secure the COVID-19 vaccines the region still needs at affordable prices, she said. The Director said PAHO’s second priority is to reduce the region’s overdependency on imported health products, highlighting the organization’s new initiative, in partnership with WHO, to develop and produce mRNA vaccines in the region. This initiative is also part of a broader effort by PAHO to invest in improving pharmaceutical supply chains to enable Latin America and the Caribbean to become more self-sufficient.
“This won’t happen overnight and will require significant investment, but this cost pales in comparison to the steep price of inaction,” she added. Looking to the future of the pandemic and beyond, the PAHO Director said another priority is to improve investments in health systems, noting that most countries in the Americas are not dedicating the recommended 6% of national GDP to public health with a focus on primary care. “This underinvestment keeps us vulnerable,” she said. “Strong, resilient health systems are the basis of an effective pandemic response and key to fulfilling our promise of health for all,” she concluded.