(JAMAICA GLEANER) – Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director, Dr Carissa Etienne, says experts are conducting studies, clinical trials, and data collection to determine whether scientific evidence emerging will support recommendations in some countries for the administration of a third dose of the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine, also known as a booster.
A booster is intended to further fortify the immune system against any virus for which it was initially administered.
Speaking during PAHO’s recent COVID-19 digital briefing, Etienne said it was imperative that data on vaccine boosters be analysed “to allow us to make the proper recommendations”.
She emphasised that such proposals may differ for each vaccine and for specific groups of people, such as those who are immuno-compromised and the elderly.
Meanwhile, Etienne said after reviewing data and scientific evidence currently available, PAHO’s Technical Advisory Group on Vaccines and the World Health Organization (WHO) Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) recommended that the highest priority be placed on rapidly expanding vaccinations to cover vulnerable groups that can develop severe forms of COVID-19, noting that “this measure will reduce hospitalisations and death”.
“After accomplishing this goal, countries need to guarantee access to vaccines to achieve the high immunisation coverage, about 80 per cent or even more, which is the estimated coverage necessary to control the transmission,” the PAHO director added.
“So, for this reason, the urgent need to have equitable access to vaccines is an ethical imperative and it is the best of the health responses to this threat,” she further said.
Noting that less than 25 per cent of populations in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and that, in some territories, the figure is less than five per cent, Etienne stressed that “our countries urgently need COVID-19 vaccines”.
She said that in addition to the deployment of vaccines through the WHO’s COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) Facility, PAHO is working to increase member countries’ accessibility to vaccines.
This, Etienne pointed out, is being done through appeals for more and immediate donations from the developed countries, as well as through direct purchases via PAHO’s Revolving Fund.
Etienne also urged citizens across the region to continue observing the recommended public health measures, including wearing of masks, physical distancing, and avoiding crowded spaces, to reduce transmission and safeguard against getting the virus.