The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reported on Wednesday that cases eight countries in the Americas reported the presence of two new variants of covid19, while numbers continued to rise.
At a virtual press conference, Carissa Etienne, director of PAHO, said preventive measures must be forceful in the coming months.
“In the last week, 2.5 million people were infected, the highest weekly number since the first cases of covid19 began in the Americaa,” she said.
In the Cayman Islands, Dominica, and the Virgin Islands, cases doubled in January.
PAHO reported that up to the time of the press conference, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Ecuador, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru and the US had reported the new strain of the virus generated in England (N501Y), while Brazil and Canada also announced the presence of the African variant (E484K).
Etienne warned, “We cannot relax while the vaccines begin to be distributed. Some countries began to vaccinate health personnel and the elderly, but they should not rely only on vaccines, but also on preventive measures.”
She acknowledged that the leaders of each country will face difficult decisions in controlling the spread of the virus.
"Leaders must act in a transparent manner so that the public understands the measures they will take for the benefit of public health and not politicise vaccines and other control measures. Balance urgency with good planning," Etienne recommended.
She said the Covax mechanism will have access to approximately 15 different vaccines and distribution will possibly start at the end of the first quarter for all countries.
Jarbas Barbosa, director of PAHO, said ten countries in the Americas will receive the vaccine from Covax free of charge, since they could not obtain it on the market, while the rest will get it through the purchase mechanism.
Canada, the US, Mexico, Costa Rica, Chile and Argentina have already begun vaccinations after buying vaccines.
"They started with limited quantities for their health personnel and it is very good, but the important thing is that they have a strategy and the entire process organised to reach their entire population," said Barbosa.