Covid-19 cases are on the rise in many Central American and Caribbean countries, officials from the World Health Organization warned on Wednesday as they called on richer countries to increase vaccine donations in a region where immunization rates remain so dangerous.
America has become a region separate from access to vaccines, said Dr. Carissa Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, which is part of the WHO
Countries with higher vaccination rates, including Costa Rica, Uruguay and Chile, are seeing significant declines in cases, while others are experiencing extremely different realities.
Only 15 percent of people across Central America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, and in some countries, including Honduras and Haiti, the figure is less than 1 percent.
Several Caribbean nations are seeing an increase in cases, including Cuba, where infections and deaths have risen and seen a recent outbreak of street protests against the government, the largest in decades.
Cuba is currently seeing the highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in the region, said Ciro Ugarte, director of health emergencies at the Pan American Health Organization. In a population of less than 12 million, more than 43,000 new cases were reported for the current week, 21 percent more than a week ago, and authorities have confirmed that the highly contagious Delta variant is circulating in several provinces.
Other Caribbean nations are also reporting surges. Cases in Martinique, for example, have tripled over the past week, many of them involving young people in their 20s, said Dr. Etienne.
Most Central American countries are also seeing a sharp increase in coronavirus cases, with Guatemala reporting high levels of hospitalizations and neighboring Honduras seeing a sharp increase in cases along its border. There are also hotspots in the Amazonian states of Colombia and Peru.
Covid-19 remains entrenched within our region, especially in countries with low vaccination coverage, and the proliferation of variants only makes things worse, said Dr. Etienne.
There was rare good news from Haiti, which has been embroiled in political unrest since the assassination of its president two weeks ago. Vaccinations against Covid-19 finally began there on Friday, two days after the country mori 500,000 dose of the Modern vaccine donated by the United States through the Covax vaccine delivery mechanism.
We clearly need more vaccines and we need them now, said Dr. Etienne, adding that donations are really the only way for many countries in our region to provide the doses they need quickly.
The U.S. government has pledged to donate about 12 million doses to Latin America and the Caribbean and has already distributed about 4.5 million doses to Honduras, El Salvador, Bolivia and Haiti.
Officials also expect to receive doses from Spain and Canada and are optimistic that others, including France, will join the donation effort.
We want to congratulate all countries for sharing vaccines with our region, but the truth is, we need more, said Dr. Etienne. Please do not wait until you have overdoses. Vaccines are not a privilege for a few people, they are everyone’s right.
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