WHO says vaccinating 20% of Latin America and Caribbean to cost more than $2 billion

FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured on the headquarters of the WHO in Geneva
FILE PHOTO: A logo is pictured on the headquarters of the World Health Orgnaization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland, June 25, 2020. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

November 18, 2020

By Anthony Boadle

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Vaccinating 20% of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean against COVID-19 will cost more than $2 billion but low income countries will be helped by the COVAX Facility led by the World Health Organization, its regional branch said on Wednesday.

According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), COVAX aims to deploy at least 2 billion doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021.

“This is a remarkable figure. But we also know that it won’t be sufficient to vaccinate everyone, at least not at first,” , PAHO Assistant Director Jarbas Barbosa said.

PAHO is working to ensure every nation in the region that is interested will have access to the COVAX Facility, a coalition that aims to provide equitable access to eventual COVID-19 vaccines.

Self-financing countries in the Americas participating in COVAX will have the option to purchase the vaccines through PAHO’s Revolving Fund, which will speed up their access, he said in a remote briefing from Washington.

So far, 28 self-financing countries have signed agreements with the COVAX Facility, and an additional 10 countries are eligible for support under the COVAX Advance Market Commitment, Barbosa said.

PAHO and UNICEF last week started the purchasing process by inviting COVID-19 vaccine manufacturers around the world to become suppliers for the 186 countries that have joined COVAX.

With countries in the Americas fearing a second wave of coronavirus, the region reported nearly 1.5 million cases and 19,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in last week, PAHO said.

The United States continues to see an acceleration of cases, reporting more than 1 million new infections in the past week alone, Barbosa said.

Brazil is experiencing a new increase in cases and deaths, and Uruguay has seen spikes in areas bordering Brazil, he said.

Cases have decreased in most Andean countries and Argentina continues to see a sharp decrease, according to PAHO.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Tom Brown)