Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Dr. Carissa Etienne has called for the protection of health workers as COVID-19 infections surge in the Americas.
At the same time, at least 42 countries and territories in the region have reported detection of the Omicron Variant.
The PAHO Director called on countries to ensure health workers have access to protective equipment and additional COVID-19 vaccine doses where available.
“We must make sure they are protected from the worst consequences of this virus,” Etienne told a news briefing this week.
Over the past week, countries in the Americas reported 6.1 million new cases of COVID-19 – a 250% increase from the same period last year.
According to PAHO, thanks to increased vaccination in the region, the COVID-19 death rate remains stable. Still, the hike in emergency room visits and hospitalisations has left many health systems struggling to cope.
The PAHO Director highlighted that an additional vaccination dose would “help reinforce health workers’ ability to withstand exposure to the virus,” particularly in light of rising infections.
While Delta continues to cause new COVID cases in the Americas, Omicron is on track to becoming the dominant strain, spreading more quickly than other detected variants, particularly in enclosed spaces, PAHO notes.
While reports suggest that it may cause less severe symptoms, Dr. Etienne warned that “this new wave of infections won’t be “mild” for our health systems, as the Omicron variant is already challenging our health workforce and limiting care for other diseases.”
“In smaller island states, some hospitals were already strained by cases of the Delta variant, and now more hospitals face the prospect of being overwhelmed with cases,” she added.