By Anthony Boadle
BRASILIA (Reuters) -Three-quarters of the people in Latin America and the Caribbean have not been fully immunized against COVID-19 in contrast to the United States and Canada where a majority have been vaccinated, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.
PAHO Director Carissa Etienne stressed the inequality in the access to vaccines in a region that has been disproportionately hit by the pandemic, with nearly a third of the world’s deaths.
“We need more vaccine donations,” she urged in a briefing from Washington, appealing to countries around the world with excess doses to quickly share them with the region to save lives.
While vaccines lack in most countries, over half the population of the United States and more than 60% of the people of Canada, Chile and Uruguay have been fully vaccinated.
The Americas region needs an additional 540 million doses to ensure that every country can cover at least 60% of its population, she said.
“The best way to protect against variants of concern, like the Delta variant, is to ensure more people are fully vaccinated everywhere,” Etienne stressed.
COVID-19 infections are surging again in North America and hospitalization rates among young people and adults below the age of 50 are higher today than at any other point in the pandemic, PAHO reported.
COVID-19 outbreaks are accelerating in multiple Central American countries, especially Costa Rica and Belize, according to PAHO. In the Caribbean, Jamaica is seeing its highest-ever COVID death toll as its hospitals reach full capacity.
In South America, infections are declining, except for Venezuela, where cases are plateauing, and Suriname, where transmission has increased for four consecutive weeks.
(Reporting by Anthony BoadleEditing by Chizu Nomiyama and Steve Orlofsky)