In Guatemala, the syringe shortage slowed vaccination efforts. In Haiti, the logistical and security challenges after the devastating earthquake of August 14 helped make it the country with the lowest vaccination coverage in the world.
And countries across the Caribbean are grappling with uneven dose distribution and hesitation over vaccines, World Health Organization officials warned today. an online press conference.
A “significant challenge facing the Caribbean – English-speaking countries and French-speaking countries and territories – is reluctance to vaccinate,” said Dr Sylvain Aldighieri, responsible for Covid-19 incidents at the Pan American Health Organization, which is part of the WHO
“Even though some Caribbean territories are leading the regional effort in terms of immunization coverage, it can be said that the rise in vaccines is suboptimal in most of the Caribbean countries,” he said.
WHO has set a target to have every country in the world immunized at least 40 percent of its population by the end of the year. Four of the six countries in the Americas that have not yet reached the 20% threshold are in the Caribbean: Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Lucia. The other two, Nicaragua and Guatemala, are in Central America.
“In all of 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 the Pan American agency.
But several countries are also “facing their own unique barriers,” she added, such as the syringe shortage in Guatemala.
At the same time, Jamaica has had to deal with supply delays.
Haiti, where the August earthquake killed at least 2,200 people, has completely inoculated less than 1 percent of its population.
“The socio-political situation in Haiti is still tense, and this has had a negative impact” on vaccination efforts, said Ciro Ugarte, director of health emergencies for the Pan American agency.
Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean receive vaccines through bilateral agreements with manufacturers as well as through the United Nations-supported Covax program and donations from countries with excessive doses. The Pan American agency has also made deals allowing countries to buy millions of doses of vaccine from Chinese companies Sinopharm and Sinovac, as well as AstraZeneca.
What to know about Covid-19 booster injections
The FDA has cleared booster injections for a selected group of people who received their second dose of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine at least six months ago. This group includes: Pfizer beneficiaries who are 65 years of age or older or who live in long-term care facilities; adults who are at high risk for severe Covid-19 due to an underlying medical problem; healthcare workers and others whose jobs put them at risk. People with weakened immune systems are eligible for a third dose of Pfizer or Moderna four weeks after the second injection.
The CDC said the conditions that qualify a person for a booster shot include: hypertension and heart disease; diabetes or obesity; cancer or blood disorders; weakened immune system; chronic lung, kidney or liver disease; dementia and some disabilities. Pregnant women and current and former smokers are also eligible.
The FDA has cleared the boosters for workers whose work puts them at high risk of exposure to potentially infectious people. The CDC says this group includes: emergency medical workers; education workers; food and agricultural workers; manufacturing workers; correctional workers; workers in the US postal service; public transport workers; employees of grocery stores.
It is not recommended. For now, recipients of the Pfizer vaccine are advised to be vaccinated by Pfizer, and recipients of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson must wait until booster doses from these manufacturers are approved.
Yes. The CDC says the Covid vaccine can be given regardless of the timing of other vaccines, and many pharmacy websites allow people to schedule a flu shot along with a booster dose.
Although the number of Covid cases in much of Latin America and the Caribbean is declining, several Caribbean islands are seeing an increase.
Barbados, for example, has the highest number of infections and deaths since the start of the pandemic, said Dr Etienne, director of the agency. The Dominican Republic, Haiti, the Cayman Islands, Antigua and Barbuda and Anguilla are also reporting an increase in cases.
“In the Eastern Caribbean, health services have been – or still are – overwhelmed by the influx of patients requiring hospitalization,” said Dr Aldighieri. He also noted that the situation contrasted sharply with that of last year, when most Caribbean island countries were largely able to avoid widespread transmission of the virus.
Despite the reluctance to vaccinate, 39% of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, said Dr Etienne. This is significantly higher than in Africa, where less than 5% of the population has been fully vaccinated, according to the African Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, as more vaccines begin to arrive in the region, it is important that countries “make the necessary preparations so that these doses can be used as quickly as possible,” said Dr Etienne.