Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) assistant director Dr Jarbas Barbosa said the escalating covid19 infection rate in India will affect the number of vaccines which will be available through the Covax facility.
He said the second delivery of Covax vaccines has begun, but PAHO will need to confirm the amounts available.
The shortfall from AstraZeneca vaccines produced in India, he said, will be made up for by sharing the vaccines from other manufacturers among the countries which would have been receiving vaccines specifically from the Serum Institute of India. He said negotiations were ongoing with the Indian government about exporting vaccines from that country to fulfil Covax contracts.
Barbosa said there are 91 vaccine development projects in various stages of clinical trials. Of these, 16 have committed to donating vaccines to the Covax facility once trials are done. He is hopeful about the progress of the Cuban vaccine, which is currently in Phase III clinical trials, and said once the information from the trials is available, it will be reviewed.
“For a vaccine to be included in the Covax facility and available for purchase through the PAHO revolving fund, it has to be certified or given emergency use approval from the World Health Organization (WHO). Every vaccine development in Latin America and the Caribbean is important, as we need to have more capacity in the region to produce vaccines, especially if we need them in years to come.”
PAHO director Dr Carissa Etienne said one in four covid19 deaths in the world last week happened in the Americas. She urged nations with extra doses of the vaccine to donate to countries which were struggling to get enough vaccine for their citizens.
Speaking at PAHO’s weekly media briefing, she commended the governments of the US and Spain for offering to donate vaccines to needy countries.
“Vaccine supplies still languish behind our urgent need for more doses. That’s why we urge countries with extra doses to consider donating a significant portion of these to the Americas, where these life-saving doses are desperately needed and will be promptly used.”
She said infections and hospitalisations are increasing in the Americas, including Guadeloupe, Martinique and the Bahamas.
“It’s no surprise, then, that many countries in our region have tightened public health measures by extending curfews, limiting reopenings, and imposing new stay-at-home orders,” she said. “These decisions are never easy, but based on how infections are surging, this is exactly what needs to happen. We know these measures work, and I commend leaders across our region for putting health first.”
Etienne gave Latin America and Caribbean countries high marks for their distribution of the limited vaccine doses that have been available.
“Most countries have done a great job following WHO and PAHO recommendations for prioritising early doses for health workers and others on the frontlines, and saving thousands of lives by protecting the elderly and people with underlying conditions.
"Many countries have invested in cold chains for vaccines requiring ultra-low temperatures. As deliveries pick up pace, our cold chain and supply chains will be tested further, but they are ready for the challenge.”
She said countries in Latin America and the Caribbean will receive their second Covax shipments in the next few weeks, with most countries seeing a considerable increase in doses from the first wave.
Etienne warned that while the region grapples with covid19, routine immunisation against other vaccine-preventable diseases has lagged. She urged people to keep up with routine vaccinations.