Health officials are buying millions of vaccines for Latin America
The Pan American Health Organization has entered into an agreement with Chinese manufacturer Sinovac to buy millions of COVID-19 vaccines for countries in Latin America and the Caribbean as part of an effort to make more shots available in a region where access is very uneven.
The agency, part of the World Health Organization, is in talks with two other manufacturers and hopes to announce new deals soon, said its assistant director, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa said at a news conference on Wednesday.
He said Sinovac has offered to sell 8.5 million doses this year and an additional 8 million doses in 2022. Countries in the region who want the vaccine will have to buy it from a health organization.
“It’s a purchase, it’s not a donation,” Dr Barbosa said, noting that the Inter-American Development Bank is giving loans to countries that need them.
The direct procurement begins at a time when, on average, only 35 percent of the populations of Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, said agency director Dr. Carissa F. Etienne said, noting that coverage has been very uneven.
While some countries, including Chile and Uruguay, have fully vaccinated more than 70 percent of their populations, he said, others have not yet reached the 20 percentage mark. Those countries are: Bahamas, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela. Haiti is a particularly serious case, she said, with less than 1 percent of the population being fully vaccinated.
The health organization is also working to expand vaccine manufacturing in the region, and announced last week that another facility in Brazil and Argentina would receive technical assistance to begin production of messenger RNA vaccines, Pfizer-BioNtech and The type used in Modern Shots.
But for the time being, “vaccine donations are the fastest way to support countries in our region,” Dr. Etienne said.
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