By Anthony Boadle
BRASILIA (Reuters) – The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) warned on Wednesday that countries in the region could continue to face localized COVID-19 outbreaks “well into 2022” even while deaths have fallen from their peak in January.
While vaccinations are progressing, the region faces a “severe vaccine inequality problem” that will prolong the pandemic, particularly in the poorer Latin American nations, PAHO said in a report to its annual policy-setting meeting. That means continued need for preventive measures, including procedures for early detection, investigation and isolation of infected cases, and the tracing and quarantine of contacts.
Renewed outbreaks are to be expected in institutions such as nursing homes, prisons and densely-populated urban areas. While vaccination coverage may reach high levels overall, much will depend on vaccine supply availability, which is limited worldwide, and the access and demand among specific population groups, PAHO said. “Vaccine hesitancy may further slow uptake by the population or prevent full achievement of vaccination potential,” said the report by the regional branch of the World Health Organization.
In its update on the COVID-19 situation in the Americas, PAHO said almost all he countries and territories in the region have reported detection of at least one of the four COVID variants that are of concern. Half of them have detected the highly transmissible Delta variant, which is now the dominant strain in Canada, Mexico and the United States, according to PAHO.
The Americas region has been hit harder than other parts of the world, with more than 2 million deaths so far. The United States and Brazil have the highest death tolls in the world. Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and the United States are among the top 10 countries for cumulative deaths globally.
Latin America and the Caribbean have had more COVID fatalities that Asia and Africa Combined.