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PHOTO FILE: A medical worker takes notes near a patient in the intensive care unit (ICU) of a hospital in Lima, Peru, on December 22, 2020.
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reported on Tuesday that it has received reports of oxygen rationing in the United States and Peru, after the overflow of hospitals in the Brazilian city of Manaus caused by COVID-19 generated shortages.
“The reports from Manaus, in Brazil, illustrate what happens when a health system lacks the capacity to cope with the speed of new infections”, Alerted Carissa Etienne, Director of PAHO.
Brazil is the second country with the most fatalities from the pandemic and the second wave caused a collapse of hospitals that led to a lack of oxygen for patients with this respiratory syndrome.
Etienne warned that not only Manaus is at risk and indicated that there are reports that oxygen had been “rationed” in some localities in the United States and Peru.
The expert expressed concern about the advance of the pandemic in the “coming weeks”, at a time when the region of the Americas registered 2.5 million new cases in the last week, more than half of all infections registered in the world.
“In our region, especially in North and South America, many hospitals are operating at a level very close to full capacity”, Indian.
The expert indicated that the hospital occupancy rate is around 90% in some areas of Peru and that several localities in Brazil and Ecuador are operating near the limit.
Regarding the presence of new strains in the region, Etienne indicated that these could be playing a role in the “acceleration of infections”.
File image: Medical staff treating a patient with COVID-19 in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) of a hospital in Chula Vista, California, on May 12, 2020.
A “very limited” capacity
The health worker said she feels “hopeful” about the speed at which vaccines are being developed, but warned that “There are not enough doses to achieve an impact that is visible for transmission in the short term.”
To ensure access, PAHO indicated that the global mechanism to guarantee access Covax – which has agreements with AstraZeneca and Novavax – is in negotiations with Pfizer and announcements are expected in the short term.
Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, deputy director of PAHO, reported that so far the countries in the region that have already started vaccination are Canada, the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, Chile and Brazil.
“It must be emphasized that each of these countries has a very limited capacity. There is no massive vaccination campaign, ”said the doctor who stressed that the country that is most advanced is the United States, with a rate of 3.7% of its population.
With regard to vaccination campaigns, Etienne urged countries not to measure the process only on the basis of the time it takes and to also consider factors such as the equity of distribution.
For the expert, priority should be given to people with risky conditions, frontline workers, the elderly, without forgetting the most marginalized populations.
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