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WHO says vaccines cannot arrive too early for regions such as Latin America

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RIO DE JANEIRO – World Health Organization officials on Wednesday reiterated their calls for governments around the world to accelerate plans to expand coronavirus vaccines in hard-hit countries, warning that many Latin American countries are still seeing a rise in the number of cases.

“This year has been worse in our region than last year,” said Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, director of the Pan American Health Organization, part of the World Health Organization. “In many places, the infection is now higher than it has ever been in this pandemic.”

The comments came as President Biden prepared to announce that his administration would buy 500 million doses of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and distribute them to about 100 countries over the next year, according to people familiar with the plan. Mr Biden could announce the deal as early as Thursday when he starts his first trip abroad as president

It is unclear to which countries the 500 million doses of vaccine will be supplied, but Latin America is one of the regions where there is an urgent need for it. Eight of the 10 countries with the highest per capita death rates from Covid are in Latin America and the Caribbean. according to Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering

And even as hospitals in Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and other countries where the virus continues to spread aggressively have created overcrowded facilities, health systems in several countries in the region are struggling to cope, Dr.Etienne said during a virtual the WHO conference. press conference Wednesday morning

“Despite doubling or even tripling hospital beds across the region, intensive care beds are full, oxygen is running out and healthcare workers are overwhelmed,” she said.

Most governments in Latin America are struggling to get enough doses to quickly vaccinate their people, officials said, slowing their ability to fully recover their economies.

Biden said last week that the United States distribute 25 million doses this month to the Caribbean and Latin America; South and Southeast Asia; Africa; and the Palestinian Territories, Gaza and the West Bank. These doses are the first of the $ 80 million that Biden has promised to ship overseas by the end of June.

Dr. Etienne said that only a fairer distribution system would put an end to the pandemic for the foreseeable future.

“Today we are witnessing the emergence of two worlds, one of which is rapidly returning to normal, and the other, recovery in which remains a distant future,” said Dr. Etienne. “Unfortunately, the vaccine supply is concentrated in a few countries, while most of the world is waiting for the dose to be reduced.”

She highlighted the vaccine shortage in Central America, where more than 44 million people live and just over two million have been vaccinated. Fewer than three million people have been vaccinated in the Caribbean, which has a population of just over 34 million.

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