Jamaica among four Caribbean countries yet to vaccinate 20 per cent of population

October 14, 2021

Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Carissa Etienne, on Wednesday said that four Caribbean countries, including Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Haiti, have yet to vaccinate 20 per cent of their populations.

She said several Latin America and Caribbean countries are on track to reach the World Health Organization (WHO) COVID-19 vaccination target of 40 per cent before the end of the year.

The Dominican-born PAHO director, also introduced three possible scenarios for the future of the pandemic, highlighting that while the overall vaccination rate in Latin America and the Caribbean currently stands at 39 per cent, “in far too many places, coverage is much lower.”

“Six countries in our region have yet to reach 20 per cent of their populations: These are Jamaica, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Haiti in the Caribbean, and Guatemala and Nicaragua in Central America.”

She said as more vaccine doses are making their way to the region, countries must “make the necessary preparations so these doses can be used as quickly as possible”.

PAHO is working to accelerate vaccine deliveries to the Region, including COVAX-procured and donated doses.

In the past few days, PAHO worked to fast-track the delivery of 1.3 million vaccine doses donated by Spain, Germany, the United States and Canada, which will be used to boost coverage in Honduras, Guyana, Argentina, and Jamaica.

The organisation is also preparing to receive COVAX and bilateral shipments in Jamaica, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.

The PAHO director called on countries to hire and train health workers to ensure vaccines can be administered quickly, and to tackle hesitancy by equipping the health workforce at all levels to answer patients' questions and help them understand the benefits of vaccines.

“To be effective, vaccine campaigns must also be designed around the unique needs of the population,” Etienne said, citing examples from Belize, which has promoted COVID vaccines in public spaces, such as bus terminals and markets.

In Bolivia, small cash transfers have helped provide an incentive for more pregnant women to get vaccinated, and in Brazil, vaccine champions have been key to encourage vaccination.

Etienne said that the trajectory of the pandemic remains highly uncertain but PAHO has developed three possible scenarios, which depend on the implementation of public health measures and vaccination coverage:

These scenarios are continued high rates of community transmission due to low vaccination coverage and insufficient public health and social measures, periodic spikes in transmission when public health and social measures slip or vaccine coverage dips and reduced hospitalisations and deaths due to consistent public health and social measures and high vaccination coverage.

“The actions we take over the next three months will help us save lives, make the most of available supplies and determine our outlook for 2022,” the PAHO Director said.

PAHO said that in the last week, the Americas reported over 1.1 million new cases and just over 24,000 COVID-related deaths.

In the Caribbean, cases have increased in the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

Barbados is also reporting a five-fold increase in infections over the last month.


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