Anticovid vaccination tourism grows in the US among Latin Americans

The so-called “vaccination tourism” through which Latin Americans with economic resources travel to the United States to be immunized against COVID-19 is not the solution to control the pandemic but rather evidence of the inequity in accessing doses in the Americas, he said. on Wednesday the director of the Pan American Health Organization. The practice grows in the region.

Miami World / telemundo51

“Vaccines can be the difference between life and death, they should not be a privilege for rich countries or for wealthy people but a right for everyone,” said Carissa Etienne.

“Those who cannot afford an international trip, who are the vast majority in our region, continue without access to vaccines. And this cannot be accepted ”.

“Vaccine tourism exacerbates inequity,” he said. “I hope we work in the opposite direction. I want vaccines to reach those who need them, regardless of where they live or how much they can afford ”.

Etienne’s statements at PAHO’s weekly press conference from its Washington headquarters took place at a time when more regions are relaxing their vaccination policy in the United States, allowing foreigners to access the doses without having to prove that they are legal residents. .

Among the last to have agreed to vaccinate foreigners is the state of Florida, which has joined Texas and Louisiana, among others.

There are no official figures on the number of Latin Americans who travel to get vaccinated, but due to the shortage of doses in their countries, politicians, entertainment personalities and wealthy people from countries such as Argentina, Mexico, Peru, Colombia and Paraguay, among others, they fly for hours to get vaccinated.

Just over 384 million doses have been administered in all the countries of the Americas, the vast majority of them in the United States: more than 258 million, according to PAHO information based on data sent by governments.

In the last week, about 1.2 million people were infected with COVID-19 throughout the region and almost 34,000 died, according to PAHO.

Unequal access to vaccination has been one of the main problems of the pandemic.

In order to avoid past experiences such as those of the H1N1 flu, where the poorest countries accessed vaccines months after the most developed ones, the United Nations and other international organizations created a mechanism called COVAX to offer doses against COVID-19 equitably around the world.

But countries with more resources have once again sealed multi-million dollar bilateral agreements with pharmaceutical companies, limiting the amount of vaccines for those with fewer resources, even for COVAX.

The mechanism is made up of a basket of vaccines approved by the World Health Organization and although that institution recently authorized the emergency use of the Chinese dose Sinopharm, no immediate changes are expected for Latin America.

The approval by the WHO is “very good news,” said PAHO Deputy Director Jarbas Barbosa. “But surely we are not going to have the vaccine in the short term, in a week or a month,” he said.

One of the obstacles facing the region is the decision of the Indian government to stop the exports of AstraZeneca vaccines that are manufactured there and that have been bought by COVAX due to the regrowth facing that country.

The situation is “worrying,” Barbosa said, but explained that the WHO is in negotiations with India to see if they at least authorize the export of part of the quantity already acquired.

In the absence of vaccines, international organizations are urging developed countries to donate doses that are left over.

Etienne considered that due to the impact that the pandemic has had in Latin America and the Caribbean, which for months has been the epicenter of infections and deaths, the region should be a priority in terms of vaccination.

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