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Decades Of Health Gains At Risk In Brazil Due To COVID-19


Although COVID-19 cases are declining in Brazil, the
pandemic is putting decades of public health gains there at
risk, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on
Friday. 

With global attention and support
focused this week on the severe crisis in India, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom
Ghebreyesus used his regular media briefing to highlight the
situation in South America’s largest
country. 

Brazil has been among nations hardest
hit by COVID-19.
 More than 400,000 people have died from the disease,
and over 14 million cases have been reported.
 

“Cases have now declined for four
weeks in a row, and hospitalizations and deaths are also
declining. This is good news, and we hope this trend
continues. But the pandemic has taught us that no country
can ever let down its guard”, said
Tedros. 

Scaling up
support 

Since November, Brazil has
been battling an increase in cases, hospitalizations and
deaths, including among younger people. Intensive care units
across the country have been at almost full capacity this
month.  

 “Brazil has a long and proud
history in public health, with three decades of investments
in strengthening primary health care and progress towards
universal health coverage. But the pandemic has hit
Brazil’s health system hard and threatens to unravel those
gains”, Tedros said. 

WHO and its regional arm,
the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), are working
with the Brazilian authorities to provide medicines and
other urgently needed supplies, including oxygen and
masks. 

Brazil is also scaling up domestic
production of COVID-19 vaccines, Tedros
said. 

Newly appointed Health Minister, Dr
Marcelo Queiroga, said the Brazilian authorities are also
accelerating vaccination efforts, including through better
distribution of doses.  

Vaccinating a
South American giant 

Dr. Queiroga said
the country’s “diversified strategy” for the pandemic
includes partnerships for technology transfer, bilateral
contracts with pharmaceutical companies, and participation
in the global vaccine solidarity mechanism, COVAX

“Currently,
we are distributing more than 60 million doses of vaccines,
and we have already applied more than 41 million doses”,
he said, speaking through an interpreter. “Nonetheless, we
still have a long way to go because we need to be able to
vaccinate 2.4 million people every
day.” 

The Health Minister
appealed for countries with extra vaccine doses to share
them with Brazil.  He also spoke of action to support
indigenous people, reporting that more than 500,000 doses so
far have been distributed. 

Americas
overwhelmed 

Overall, the Americas has
been the region most affected by the pandemic, according to
WHO. 

Countries such as Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia,
Argentina, Uruguay and Guyana have reported a dramatic
rise in infections, and health services are
overwhelmed.   

Dr Ciro Ugarte, Director of
the Department of Health Emergencies for WHO/PAHO, said
several countries have seen an increase in cases among
younger people. 

“These are linked to increased
exposure and no vaccination in this group as most countries
have few vaccines and are applying them to vulnerable older
groups and healthcare workers,” he
explained. 

A bleak
outlook 

PAHO is helping countries to
plan for a needed sudden increase in the use of oxygen,
intubation, drugs and personal protective equipment, and to
improve protection for health workers. 

Dr Ugarte
underscored the need for more vaccines in the region,
including through COVAX and donations.
  

“COVAX has delivered 7.3 million doses
in Latin America and the Caribbean so far, but the need for
vaccines is much greater”, he said.  “Many
countries cannot afford large bilateral deals with producers
and are relying on COVAX for vaccines, but the outlook is
not optimistic for increased supplies
soon.”

Moderna vaccine Emergency Use
Listing

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine has
been listed for emergency use, WHO
announced
on Friday.

It becomes the fifth vaccine
to receive the validation, which is a prerequisite for being
included in COVAX.

Emergency Use Listing (EUL)
assesses the quality, safety and efficacy of COVID-19
vaccines.  It also allows countries to expedite their
own regulatory approvals to import and administer
doses.

The Moderna vaccine had previously been
reviewed by WHO’s expert advisory group, SAGE, which in
January recommended its use for people 18 and
above.

The other vaccines WHO has listed for emergency
use are by  Pfizer/BioNTech, Astrazeneca-SK Bio, Serum
Institute of India and
Janssen.

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