“Although it seems that the danger has passed, we insist on affirming that the pandemic has not ended.” Thus, without half measures and with extreme seriousness, the authorities of the Pan American Health Organization came out to warn yesterday that this 2023 could have complicated moments again from possible outbreaks of Covid-19 throughout the world and, particularly, in our region.
Jarbas Barbosa, director of PAHO, led a meeting in which an assessment of the coronavirus situation in the region of the Americas was made and where, in addition, future signs were left of how SARS-CoV-2 will behave and what are the best tools to get out of the pandemic.
“The American continent has been one of the regions of the world hardest hit by the coronavirus. We have suffered 190 million positive cases, which represents 25% of the world total. But we have suffered 2.9 million deaths, which means 43% of the total on the planet in three years,” Barbosa said. In addition, he clarified that it has been a very difficult period for the region and that no country was prepared for the arrival of the new virus.
“Today we are in a totally different situation from the one we experienced three years ago,” he said. The incidence of COVID today is 20 or 30 times lower than last year and, in this sense, PAHO has managed to carry out very important work regarding the information necessary to face the pandemic and access to tools to combat it, such as vaccines ” .
On this, the specialist remarked that America is the region with the second highest level of vaccination coverage in the world, with 71% of people vaccinated.
For this reason, the director of PAHO asked the countries that make up the American continent to maintain vigilance and observation of the pathogen. “The threat of the virus is still real,” warned Barbosa, who praised the work of PAHO in terms of articulating the regional variant sequencing network at the regional level, which provided more than 580,000 SARS-CoV-2 sequences. to the global network to monitor the COVID pandemic.
Barbosa also highlighted the Organization’s role in the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, “mobilizing more than 160 million doses through COVAX and helping the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean to distribute more than 1,300 million doses in less two years.”
Despite these achievements, Barbosa cautioned that “COVID-19 is still with us and the virus has yet to establish itself in a predictable pattern. In the last month, we have seen more than 1.5 million new cases and 17,000 deaths. We can’t let our guard down.”
Dr. Ciro Ugarte, for his part, director of Health Emergencies at PAHO, emphasized that vaccination must continue to be a priority for all people, while creating more and better access to continue with the high rates. protection against new variants of COVID concern.
“We have had great learning in the last three years regarding the health sector, in technology, in new ways of organizing ourselves, in protecting ourselves, in personal hygiene habits, in the use of a face mask, and gel, the way of greeting each other and new ways of coexistence. We must continue to take care of ourselves and focus on learning how to prevent the appearance of new pathogens. Many countries are still searching for the origin of COVID. Previous research on the appearance of other pandemics can help us in this search backwards so that we can later prevent future diseases,” said Ugarte.
One of the concerns most expressed by PAHO experts was related to cases of prolonged COVID or long covid, which are the manifestations of the coronavirus disease when more than three months elapse from the original infection. According to Marcos Espinal, Deputy Director of PAHO, the main symptoms are fatigue and mental health problems.
“They are the main conditions of prolonged COVID -he assures-. And to avoid them in the future there are a series of treatments under study. It is also important to continue vaccinating ourselves against COVID, with the necessary reinforcements. We know that 10% of people who had coronavirus can develop post-COVID syndromes. And if we don’t get vaccinated, the risk is greater. Although it seems that COVID has passed and that prolonged COVID is the main public health danger, in reality it is the coronavirus pandemic.
Meanwhile, Dr. Sylvain Aldighieri, PAHO Incident Manager for COVID-19, specified that “certain therapies have been effective for some long-term COVID conditions. PAHO has developed a rapid review with an updated platform to address all doubts. There are many new and reused drugs to test their efficacy against the long-term symptoms of this disease.”
Finally, Barbosa said that the lessons we can learn from COVID are very important to deal with other recent health threats, such as bird flu. “We must build and strengthen existing surveillance systems to identify a change in a known disease or when a new one emerges. And have all the tools to act immediately, ”she said. And he added: “reaching the 30% of people who have not yet received the primary series of the COVID vaccine is also essential to prepare for any new wave of the virus or new variant of concern.”
Experts agree that continuing with the vaccination plan is essential