Even as some Caribbean countries relax entry protocols for travelers who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has strongly advised against going that route.
PAHO Director of Health Emergencies Dr. Ciro Ugarte said on Wednesday that the World Health Organization (WHO) and PAHO do not agree with relaxing measures, since people who are fully vaccinated can still contract and spread the virus.
“The vaccine does not protect you from getting infected although there is increasing evidence that that is the case in a significant proportion of persons who get vaccinated,” he said during the virtual weekly press briefing.
“There are many people that will still get infected and by reducing the protective measures for the persons who get vaccinated, of course, there is an increased probability and risk of getting infected and passing the disease to others that have not got vaccinated yet. So, in that regard, the WHO and PAHO do not recommend changing the entry requirements for the people who get vaccinated.”
Several Caribbean governments have relaxed protocols for fully vaccinated persons entering their territories. Although such individuals are still required to arrive with a negative PCR test, their quarantine period has been reduced.
Dr. Ugarte said the disparity in protocols for the vaccinated versus the non-vaccinated, even among the population, raises the issue of discrimination.
“How can we discriminate or separate the persons who have been vaccinated from the other ones that are not yet vaccinated? Also, if you are… in a community where some people got vaccinated, how can you identify those and let them, for example, review their protective measures?” he questioned.
“So, in that regard, there is a clear indication that unless a significant proportion of persons get fully vaccinated and protected, some of those protective measures must continue to be in place.”
During Wednesday’s press conference, PAHO Director Dr. Carissa Etienne said only three percent of people in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
She said the shortage of vaccines is a “symptom of our region’s overdependence on imports for essential medical supplies”.
Noting that less than four percent of medical products in use during the COVID response have come from the region, Dr. Etienne contended: “Expanding our regional capacity to manufacture strategic medical supplies – especially vaccines – is a must, both for our people and as a matter of health security.”