On Wednesday, the Director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, called on countries to expedite vaccination efforts and strengthen surveillance to monitor diseases like coronaviruses that spread from humans to animals.
According to a PAHO release, Etienne also announced that PAHO had closed additional agreements with AstraZeneca, Sinopharm, and Sinovac to facilitate COVID-19 vaccines in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The WHO Emergency Use Listing authorized vaccines will be made available to countries this year, and in 2022, the release disclosed.
And turning to the risk presented by animal to human – or zoonotic – diseases, the PAHO Director called for regional governments to apply a “One Health” approach to rapidly detect emerging pathogens that have the potential to pose a public health risk.
“Just as we work together to control this pandemic, we must consider the ways in which we can collaborate to avoid future pandemics,” she said.
According to Etienne, COVID-19 has been unique in its scale and impact. But she explained it’s not the first emerging disease to cause ripple effects throughout the world.
In this regard, Etienne cited recent epidemics with severe impacts caused by diseases that spill from animals to people, such as Ebola, chikungunya, yellow fever, avian influenza, and Zika.
“We need countries to ensure that animal, agricultural and environmental partners are brought to the table to build more robust surveillance systems,” she said.
Etienne asserted that systems must be able to detect risks faster, prioritize investments in R&D for high-risk pathogens, and establish strong pandemic responses that build on the strengths of these diverse areas of expertise.