The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday that speed of action, the transparency of the authorities, health measures and vaccination are the tools that must be implemented right now while more data is obtained on omicron, the new variant of covid19.
Dr. Carissa Etienne, director of PAHO, said in the weekly virtual press conference the last weekend PAHO met with ministers of health to explain the data obtained from omicron and to follow up on the vaccination processes.
"Speed and transparency are important at this time, but we recommend that people not panic and get vaccinated to prevent the risks of exposure to the virus," Etienne said. “We urge people to continue taking health measures and vaccination as the main tools against covid19 and these new variants. We still don't know much about omicron, but we do have to keep doing what we can."
Dr Sylvain Aldighieri, PAHO incident director, said it is still too early to determine omicron's behaviour.
“Many important laboratories in the world are doing studies to evaluate everything that is necessary. Tireless work is being done to alert countries to the genomic surveillance and detection network for this new variant,” he said.
Aldighieri said travel regulations should be evaluated by each country as information about the new variant becomes available.
Dr Ciro Ugarte, PAHO emergency director, said countries are preparing for a possible increase in cases, not only of omicron, but also the delta variant by an exchange of vaccines, equipment and tools between the countries of the Americasand contributing to a joint response.
In the last week, the Americas reported 753,000 new cases and more than 30,000 deaths from covid19. In North America the numbers remain high, while in central America there has been a decrease and in South America there has been another increase in cases in several countries.
PAHO said only 50 per cent of people in the region have been fully vaccinated and this number must improve to face the advance of covid19.
Dr Jarbas Barbosa, deputy director of PAHO, said there is still do no evidence the vaccines do not work against omicron.
"We have hundreds of specialists doing studies, and in two or three weeks we will have news about the ability to neutralise the variants of the virus. But the best measure we have at this time is to continue vaccinating," said Barbosa.
Barbosa said four countries have more than 70 per cent of their population vaccinated, 20 countries more than 40 per cent, but 15 nations have a vaccination rate of less than 40 per cent and four have less than ten per cent.
Etienne stressed there must be effective communication to put an end to misinformation about vaccines, which is leaving many people still reluctant to bevaccinated.