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The Caribbean nations struggle with Covid vaccination rates




In Guatemala, the lack of syringes has slowed vaccination efforts. In Haiti, logistical and security challenges following the devastating August 14 earthquake have contributed to making it the country with the lowest vaccination coverage in the world.

And across the Caribbean, countries are struggling with unequal dose distribution and vaccine reluctance, World Health Organization officials warned today in an online press conferencewith

An important challenge facing the Caribbean English-speaking countries and French-speaking countries and territories is vaccine reluctance, said Dr Sylvain Aldighieri, Covid-19 incident manager at the WHO, which is part of the WHO.

“Even if some Caribbean territories are leading regional efforts in terms of vaccination coverage, we can say that vaccine growth is below optimal in most Caribbean countries,” he said.

The WHO has set a goal for every country in the world to vaccinate at least 40 percent of its population by the end of the year. Four of the six American countries that have not yet reached the 20 percent threshold are in the Caribbean: Haiti, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and St. Lucia. Both Nicaragua and Guatemala are in Central America.

In all these countries, the availability of vaccines due to the uneven distribution of doses has been a central challenge, said Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, director of pan-American agencies.

But some of the countries are also facing their own unique barriers, she added, such as the lack of syringes in Guatemala.

At the same time, Jamaica had to cope with supply delays.

Haiti, where the August earthquake killed at least 2,200 people, has completely vaccinated less than 1 percent of its population.

The socio-political situation in Haiti is still tense and this has negatively impacted vaccination efforts, said Ciro Ugarte, director of pan-US health emergency agencies.

Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean receive vaccines through bilateral agreements with manufacturers, as well as through the Covax program supported by the United Nations and donations from countries with overdoses. The Pan-American Agency has also signed agreements for countries to purchase millions of doses of vaccine from Chinas Sinopharm and Sinovac, as well as AstraZeneca.

What you need to know about Covid-19 boosters

The FDA authorized boost shots for a select group of people who received their second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months ago. This group includes: Pfizer recipients who are 65 years of age or older or living in long-term care facilities; adults who are at high risk of severe Covid-19 due to an underlying medical condition; health care workers and others whose jobs put them at risk. People with weakened immune systems are entitled to a third dose of Pfizer or Moderna four weeks after the second stroke.

Regulators have not yet authorized booster injections for Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients, but an FDA panel is scheduled to meet to weigh booster injections for adult Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccine recipients.

The CDC has said that conditions that qualify a person for a boost include: hypertension and heart disease; diabetes or obesity; cancer or blood disorders; weakening of the immune system; chronic diseases of the lungs, kidneys or liver; dementia and certain disabilities. Pregnant women and current smokers and ex-smokers are also eligible.

The FDA authorized incentives for workers whose jobs put them at high risk of exposure to potentially infectious people. The CDC says that group includes: emergency medical workers; education workers; food and agriculture workers; production workers; correctional workers; American Postal Service Workers; public transport employees; grocery store workers.

Not recommended. For now, Pfizer vaccine recipients are advised to take a Pfizer booster, and Moderna and Johnson & Johnson recipients will have to wait until booster doses are approved by those manufacturers.

Yes. The CDC says the Covid vaccine can be administered regardless of the timing of other vaccines, and many pharmacy sites are allowing people to prescribe a flu vaccine at the same time as a booster dose.

Although the number of Covid cases in most of Latin America and the Caribbean is declining, some islands in the Caribbean are seeing an increase.

Barbados, for example, is reporting the highest number of infections and deaths since the pandemic began, said Dr Etienne, director of the agencies. Dominican Republic, Haiti, Cayman Islands, Antigua and Barbuda and Anguilla are also reporting increasing cases.

In the eastern Caribbean, health services have been or are still overloaded by the influx of patients seeking hospitalization, Dr Aldighieri said. He also noted that the situation was a stark contrast to last year, when most Caribbean island countries were largely able to avoid widespread transmission of the virus.

Despite vaccine reluctance, 39 percent of the population across Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, Dr Etienne said. This is much higher than in Africa, where less than 5 percent of the population is fully vaccinated, according to the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As more vaccines begin to flow into the region, however, it is important that countries make the necessary preparations so that these doses can be used as soon as possible, said Dr. Etienne.




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