2021-09-30 01:12:35 Health officials are buying millions of vaccines for Latin America.

Health officials are buying millions of vaccines for Latin America.

The Pan American Health Organization has reached an agreement with the Chinese manufacturer Sinovac to purchase millions of Covid-19 vaccines for Latin American and Caribbean countries as part of an effort to increase access in a region where access has been extremely unequal.

Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, the agency’s assistant director, said at a news conference Wednesday that it is negotiating with two other manufacturers and expects to announce new deals soon.

According to him, Sinovac has offered to sell 8.5 million doses this year and an additional 80 million in 2022. Countries in the region that want the vaccine will have to purchase it from the WHO.

“This is a purchase, not a donation,” Dr. Barbosa said, noting that the Inter-American Development Bank provides loans to developing countries.

The direct purchases begin at a time when, on average, only 35 percent of Latin America and the Caribbean’s population has been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, according to Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, the agency’s director, noting that coverage has been very unequal.

While some countries, such as Chile and Uruguay, have fully vaccinated more than 70% of their populations, others have yet to reach the 20% mark, she said. The Bahamas, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela are among them. She cited Haiti as a particularly dire example, with less than 1% of the population fully vaccinated.

The WHO is also working to expand vaccine manufacturing in the region, announcing last week that a facility in Brazil and another in Argentina will receive technical assistance to begin production of messenger RNA vaccines, such as those used in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots.

However, for the time being, “vaccine donations remain the quickest way to support countries in our region,” according to Dr. Etienne.

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Health officials are buying millions of vaccines for Latin America.