More than half of COVID deaths worldwide last week in the Americas: PAHO

COVID-19 infections continue to rise outbreak in the Americasthe director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday, with more than 1.3 million new cases recorded last week and more than 37,000 thousand deaths.

During PAHO’s weekly press conference, the organization’s director, Carissa Etienne, said that some countries the region are seeing an increase in cases while others are seeing a decline, but the region as a whole continues to be heavily affected by the pandemic.

“More than half of all the deaths worldwide reported in the past week have been in the Americas – a sober reminder of the human toll of this pandemic,” Etienne said.

“Over the past week, the United States, Brazil and Argentina were among the 10 countries in the world with the highest number of new infections in the world,” she said.

Health worker treats COVID-19 patient at field hospital in Mexico City [File: Fernando Llano/AP Photo]

According to Johns Hopkins University, the United States and Brazil are the world leaders in coronavirus deaths. Over 556,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States and Brazil over 336,000 have died.

Etienne said South America is the most “worrying” region in the Americas, where cases are increasing in almost every country. In Bolivia and Colombia, she said, cases doubled last week.

She added that to date, more than 210 million COVID-19 vaccines have been administered in 49 countries and territories in the region, and 2.8 million vaccines through the COVAX mechanism in 26 countries.

COVAX is an initiative co-led by Gavi the Vaccine Alliance, with its partners, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to provide equitable access to coronavirus vaccines across the world. The work of the mechanism is essential for the poorest countries in the region, such as Haiti, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador.

But vaccination rates vary widely across the region. While Chile leading with more than 37 percent of its population vaccinated, according to Our World in Data, other countries like Guatemala and Honduras have vaccinated less than 1 percent of their population.

The most populous countries in the region such as Brazil and Mexico also struggled to obtain vaccines, faced with global demand and limited supplies.

Several countries have relied on vaccines from Russia, China and India.

Mexican Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said in a tweet on Wednesday that more than 400,000 doses of the Chinese single-dose vaccine CanSino had been delivered to Mexico. He said the vaccine received emergency approval after 15,000 Mexicans participated in trials.

Elderly women pose for a photo with vaccination cards after receiving their second dose of Sinovac COVID-19 vaccine in Santiago, Chile [File: Esteban Felix/AP Photo]

Chile approved the CanSino vaccine on Wednesday, the country’s health ministry said in a tweet.

PAHO’s press conference fell on World Health Day, the annual day to raise awareness of health issues and the importance of equity in access to health care.

Etienne said the pandemic, which began to spread rapidly across the world more than a year ago, has exacerbated long-standing inequalities in the region.

“Tackling COVID-19 effectively is impossible without addressing some of these inequalities and supporting the most vulnerable as they struggle to protect themselves,” she said.

“On World Health Day, we urge countries to make equity the engine of their response to COVID.”

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