According to Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa Etienne, the coronavirus’s unregulated spread across the Americas accounted for a large portion of all global Covid-19 deaths last week.
“One in four Covid deaths reported worldwide last week took place right here, in the Americas,” she said at a virtual press conference on Wednesday. “Nearly every country in Central America is reporting a rise in infections.”
Etienne also stated that Canada’s infection rates have exceeded those of the United States for the first time.
New coronavirus variants are contributing to the increase in infections across the country, although sluggish vaccination rollouts, which are hampered in part by a shortage of vaccine, are causing additional setbacks in a number of countries in the Americas. The vigorous vaccination policy in the United States has been an outlier.
Many health systems in South and Central America are struggling to cope with the influx of patients, and are increasingly seeing younger patients, she said, noting that hospitalizations in Costa Rica are “at an all-time high,” Guatemalan hospitals are at capacity, and hospitals in many major Colombian cities are out of intensive care beds.
Infections are also on the rise in Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, and Uruguay.
According to the most recent Johns Hopkins University data, Brazil has long been one of the worst-affected countries in the Americas, with the second-highest number of Covid-19 deaths after the United States and the third-highest number of cases after the United States and India. Jair Bolsonaro, a former coronavirus skeptic, is now under investigation by the Brazilian government for his handling of the pandemic.
According to Etienne, over 317 million vaccine doses have been distributed across 49 countries and territories in the region as of this week. COVAX, the vaccine distribution facility sponsored by the World Health Organization and the Vaccine Alliance known as GAVI, sold nearly 7 million of them.
COVAX shipments to countries should arrive in the next few weeks, she said.
Hospitals in South and Central America are struggling to cope with a heavy influx of COVID-19 patients as the pandemic continues to surge across the region, Pan American Health Organization Director Carissa F. Etienne reported today.
“Hospitalizations are at an all-time high in Costa Rica, and we expect more patients will require care as the country reported a 50% jump in cases in the last week,” Dr. Etienne told reporters at her weekly media briefing. “Guatemala’s hospitals have also reached maximum capacity,” she said, and at hospitals in Colombia, “ICU beds are running out in major metropolitan cities like Bogota and Medellin.”
She said that vaccine “supplies still languish behind our urgent need for more doses. That’s why we urge countries with extra doses to consider donating a significant portion of these to the Americas, where these life-saving doses are desperately needed and will be promptly used.”
The rise in hospitalization of younger COVID-19 patients, who are less regularly vaccinated and more frequently exposed, is contributing to the hospital overcrowding crisis. They are more likely to be hospitalized for longer periods of time and therefore consume more energy. “PAHO is orienting our countries to plan on coping with sudden increases in the consumption of critical inputs such as oxygen, intubation drugs, personal protective equipment and infusion pumps.,” Dr. Etienne said.