Many Latin American countries now have higher vaccination rates than Europe and North America

Vaccine rollout was slow at first and it was a big problem to get the vaccines in hand. Just six months ago, Latin America and the Caribbean reported just under half of all Covid-19-related deaths worldwide. The region now accounts for about 10% of Covid-19-related deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

This is due to the accelerated delivery of European, American, Chinese and homemade vaccines that a number of Latin American nations have received in the second half of this year, according to data from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Cuba, Chile and Brazil are among the top ten countries globally in terms of the fully vaccinated, according to statistics compiled by PAHO.

One reason for these successful vaccination campaigns can be traced back to history: Many countries in Latin America have long-standing and trusted national inoculation efforts against other diseases, such as polio.

Cuba has perhaps fared best in this regard, with its commitment to its home-grown vaccines – approved for emergency use by its pharmaceutical authorities this summer – paying off.

The country has the highest vaccination rate in the region – and one of the highest in the world – with 84.1% of its inhabitants fully vaccinated, according to PAHO. In September, Cuba became the first in the world to begin mass vaccination of children as young as 2 years against Covid.

Researchers say the Cuban-made vaccines are safe and effective in preventing serious illness and death. The government applied for approval from the World Health Organization for their vaccines in September.

Meanwhile, Brazil, home to one of the highest Covid-19 death rates in the world, has emerged from its darkest days with the pandemic with a successful vaccination effort. Larger cities such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo have seen more than 99% of the adult population receive at least one dose of the vaccine, reports Reuters.

Brazil has administered more than 315 million doses, with 65.7% of the population fully vaccinated, according to PAHO data as of December 23rd.

Chile’s record is even better – with 85.6% of the population fully vaccinated. Uruguay has vaccinated 76.6% of its population and Argentina’s vaccination rates are 70%.

In Ecuador, 69.1% of its eligible population is already fully vaccinated. Covid-19 vaccinations will be made mandatory for people eligible for the vaccine from the age of five and older, the Ecuadorian Ministry of Health said Thursday, becoming the first country in Latin America to impose such a measure on the entire eligible population. Vaccination will not be mandatory for those with pre-existing medical conditions, the health ministry said.

And in Peru, which has suffered the highest rate of Covid-19 deaths anywhere in the world, 63.9% of the eligible population is now fully vaccinated.

Regionally, over 868 million doses have been administered per December 22 in Latin America and the Caribbean, PAHO reported, with about 57% of Latin America and the Caribbean population fully vaccinated. This compares with 67.8% in Europe and 61.3% in the United States.

Uneven prices

Still, PAHO warns that vaccination remains uneven across Latin America and the Caribbean, “with a handful of countries unlikely to reach the 40% vaccination target by the end of the year, and many just above the 50% threshold for full COVID-19 immunization . “

Countries that continue to struggle with their rollout include Jamaica and French Guiana, where 18.7% and 25.4% of the population are fully vaccinated. Among the major countries in the region, Mexico has only just passed the 50% threshold.

And as the Omicron variant widens, as in large parts of the world, Latin America begins to see an increase in reported cases. In the week to December 23, the United States (which includes the United States and Canada) reported over 1.1 million new Covid-19 infections – a 6% increase in cases from the previous week.

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However, much of this increase was driven by cases in the United States, where PAHO reported an overall drop in South America of 10.7% in cases and a 6.3% drop in deaths that week.

Bolivia was the outstanding one and reported a sharp increase in cases, just as some parts of the Caribbean did, where a PAHO analysis showed that the number of cases increased by 16%.

In addition to imported vaccines, Latin America now produces several of its own. This month, PAHO Director General Carissa Etienne welcomed the WHO approval of an AstraZeneca vaccine co-produced by Argentina and Mexico – the first in Latin America.

“This is an important milestone for Latin America and highlights the importance of technology transfer to increase the availability of quality COVID-19 vaccines in the region,” said Etienne.

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