The Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Carissa F. Etienne, asked the PROSUR block of South American presidents to work together on access to vaccines for COVID-19.
“We believe that your support and participation in the COVAX Initiative will provide the best opportunity to fast track access to COVID-19 vaccines nationally and regionally throughout the Americas,” she said at the virtual meeting yesterday of the PROSUR bloc, which includes Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay and Peru. PAHO can provide guidance and support accelerated access to vaccines through its country offices and the Regional Office in Washington,” she added.
Under the World Health Organization’s Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator, the COVAX Facility will negotiate on behalf of many countries worldwide with the producers of all promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates.
PAHO is “leveraging the PAHO Revolving Fund and its participating Member States as a unified bloc and viable procurement mechanism through COVAX to ensure rapid access to the vaccine at a unified flat price,” she said, noting that 40 countries and territories have already formally expressed interest in gaining access COVID-19 vaccines from COVAX through PAHO’s Revolving Fund, which buys vaccines in bulk for the countries.
“By using the Revolving Fund, we will build on well-established processes and mechanisms that have been successfully utilized in the Region for more than 40 years. Thus, we can accelerate access to effective COVID vaccines and ensure effective coordination with you, WHO and COVAX to respond to your national needs,” Etienne told the assembled leaders.
“Sadly, as of August 26, more than 450,000 deaths in the Americas can be directly attributed to COVID-19, and more deaths will occur due to the indirect health, social and economic impact of the pandemic,” Etienne said.
The pandemic “has ushered in a triple crisis throughout our Region, as it challenges our health systems, fractures our social protection and destabilizes our economies,” she said. “Today, we are in danger of losing years of health gains, in a matter of months. Your Excellencies, sustained interventions across sectors is – and will be required – to suppress COVID-19, to protect health gains, to tackle mounting poverty and inequalities and to build stronger more resilient economies.”
“COVID-19 has shown us clearly that health outcomes in the region are intrinsically linked to our economies, the social determinants of health, and the safety nets that have been established to protect health and wellbeing. Without integrated health and social protection policies, we cannot mitigate against the terrible impact of COVID-19 on our economic livelihoods,” PAHO’s Director told the presidents.
“We will support your endeavors to retake the health and development agenda in the future, and reshape it in the wake of this pandemic, to make sure we are better prepared than ever for any future disease outbreak,” Etienne said.