They estimate that to vaccinate 20% of the population in the region it is estimated that 273 million doses will be needed.
Although a vaccine has not yet been approved, about 40 countries and territories in Latin America and the Caribbean have already secured the doses necessary for a first phase of immunization in the face of the coronavirus, which until this Saturday caused some 400,000 deaths in the region.
“We are supporting the region to participate in the COVAX mechanism, whose main objective is that all countries receive vaccines at the same time when they are ready,” said Jarbas Barbosa, deputy director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO-WHO) , by underlining the history of unequal access.
In the virtual forum “Covering stories about covid-19 vaccines in a responsible and evidence-based way,” Barbosa mentioned as an example that “during the pandemic of influenza H1N1 (2009-2010), in Latin America poorer countries only had access to vaccines 6 to 8 months later than rich countries“, an inequality that we want to combat with the COVAX Mechanism.
This access is a growing concern for Latin America and the Caribbean, which until this Saturday registers 11.1 million infections (25% of the global total) and borders 400,000 deaths (almost 30%) from the coronavirus.
According to data from Doctors Without Borders (MSF), so far 13% of the world has purchased more than 50% of the volume of candidate vaccines most promising.
The United States secured 600 million doses; the United Kingdom, 60 million; the European Union, 30 million, and Canada, 72 million, which for MSF raises concern about solidarity in the allocation of vaccines.
With that fear and fewer resources, Latin American and Caribbean countries have been linked to the process, participating in clinical studies and managing their adherence to COVAX, coordinated by the World Health Organization (WHO) and seeking equitable access to a possible vaccine.
Through COVAX, some 180 countries who have joined the mechanism are guaranteed initial doses to cover at least 3% of the population in the early stages of vaccine deployment, eventually reaching 20% of its inhabitants, enough to protect the people at higher risk.
According to the WHO, at this time there are three ways to get the vaccine: national access, with direct agreements with manufacturing laboratories (Argentina, Mexico and Brazil have taken this option), group -regional supply agreements- and global, which is the one represented by COVAX.
Within COVAX, to which Mexico and Brazil, Latin America and the Caribbean have also joined, it currently registers about 30 countries or self-financed territories (that is, with the capacity to buy vaccines) and 10 eligible to receive support: Bolivia, Dominica, El Salvador, Grenada, Guyana Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
John Fitzsimmons, chief of the PAHO / WHO Revolving Fund Program, detailed in the forum that to vaccinate 20% of the population in the region it is estimated that 273 million doses will be needed (with a two-dose schedule at $ 10.55 / dose), which will imply a projected cost of $ 2,714,200,000.
WHO registers at this time 201 candidate vaccines: 156 in the preclinical stage, including two from Brazil, one from Argentina and one from Cuba, and 45 in human trials.
Of the latter, 10 are already in the final stretch (phase III), in which safety and efficacy are evaluated with tens of thousands of volunteers.
Four of the 10 most advanced vaccines are developed in China, while the others are from pharmaceutical companies americans Janssen (Johnson & Johnson), Novavax, Pfizer (which works with the German BioNTech) and Moderna; to which is added the british AstraZeneca in collaboration with the University of Oxford.
Also, one of Russia, which this week sent the WHO a request for expedited registration and prequalification of its Sputnik V vaccine.
The trials were not without difficulties. AstraZeneca and Janssen have already resumed testing after being briefly interrupted to investigate cases of volunteers who fell ill.