Countries should prioritize pregnant, breastfeeding women for COVID-19 shots -PAHO – Reuters

BOGOTA, Sept 8 (Reuters) – Countries in the Americas should prioritize pregnant and lactating women in distribution of COVID-19 shots, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday, hailing the ability of the vaccines to protect women and their babies.

“PAHO recommends that all pregnant women after their first trimester, as well as those who are breastfeeding, receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” PAHO Director Dr. Carissa Etienne said during the organization’s weekly virtual briefing.

More than 270,000 pregnant women have had COVID-19 in the Americas and about 1% have died, she said, adding that in Mexico and Colombia the illness is the leading cause of maternal deaths this year.

“In Mexico, where pregnant women have been prioritized for vaccinations for some time, not a single vaccinated woman has died from COVID during pregnancy,” Etienne said.

Countries also must ensure pregnant women are able to access pre-natal care, Etienne said. At least 40% of regional countries reported disruptions to maternal and newborn care during the pandemic.

Just 28% of people in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 so far, Etienne said, adding that vaccination figures vary widely, with one-fourth of regional countries yet to vaccinate even 20% of its people.

Guatemala and Nicaragua are currently below 10% vaccine coverage, while Venezuela is at just over 11%. Less than 1% of Haiti’s population has been inoculated against COVID-19.

PAHO’s Emerging Viral Diseases advisor Jairo Mendez Rico joined other health officials in downplaying concerns about the Mu variant of the virus first discovered in Colombia, saying there is no solid evidence yet to show that it is more transmissible or lethal than others.

All currently available COVID-19 vaccines have so far been effective in protecting against the variant, which has been circulating in the Americas since January, he said. read more

There were nearly 1.5 million COVID-19 cases in the region last week and more than 22,000 deaths.

Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb
Editing by Bill Berkrot

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