The Pan American Health Organization has hit a deal with the Chinese manufacturer Sinovac to buy millions of Covid-19 vaccines for countries in Latin America and the Caribbean as part of an effort to make more shots obtainable in a vicinity where access has been highly unequal.
The agency, part of the World Health Organization, is negotiating with two other manufacturers and expecting to announce new deals soon, Dr. Jarbas Barbosa, its assistant director, said at a news conference on Wednesday.
Sinovac has offered to sell 8.5 million doses this year and an additional 80 million next year, he said. Countries in the vicinity that want the vaccine will have to buy it from the health organization.
“This is a buy — it isn’t a donation,” Dr. Barbosa said, noting that the Inter-American Development Bank was offering loans to countries that needed them.
The direct purchases begin at a time when, on average, only 35 percent of people in Latin America and the Caribbean have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19, said Dr. Carissa F. Etienne, the agency’s director.
And that coverage has been unequal. While some countries, including Chile and Uruguay, have fully vaccinated over 70 percent of their populations, she said, others have however to reach the 20 percent mark. Countries on the lower end of inoculation rates include the Bahamas, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Nicaragua, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Venezuela. Haiti is a particularly dire case, she said, with less than 1 percent of the population fully vaccinated.
The health organization, which is also working to expand vaccine manufacturing in the vicinity, announced last week that a site in Brazil and another in Argentina would receive technical sustain to begin production of messenger RNA vaccines, the kind used in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna shots.
But for the time being, Dr. Etienne said, “vaccine donations keep the fastest way to sustain countries in our vicinity.”
A preliminary set of health protocols for next February’s Winter Games in Beijing, released by the International Olympic Committee on Wednesday, suggest that the next Olympics could be the most extraordinarily restricted large-extent sporting event since the start of the pandemic.
The Beijing Olympic and Paralympic Games will take place in what organizers described as a “closed-loop management system” — a bubblelike ecosystem in which athletes, officials, broadcasters, journalists and a large Games work force will have to eat, sleep, work and compete without leaving, from the day they arrive to the moment they depart.
Anyone, including athletes, intending to go into this bubble has two choices: arrive in China fully vaccinated, or prepare to use the first 21 days in Beijing in lone quarantine.
And while spectators will be allowed to return to competition venues after being largely barred from the recent Summer Games in Tokyo, entry will be limited to people who live in mainland China.
The Summer Olympics in Tokyo featured a far more porous health protocol. Participants were not required to be vaccinated and did not have to sequester if they were not. And while they were asked to try to keep within Games-affiliated venues, they nevertheless had plenty of opportunities to interact with the outside world, including at convenience stores and restaurants for takeout meals.
Members of the local news media and the venue work forces in Tokyo were allowed to commute to Olympic venues from their homes. And after a 14-day period of more harsh restrictions, all Games visitors were allowed to move about the city as they wished.
In an urgent plea, federal health officials are asking that any American who is pregnant, planning to become pregnant or currently breastfeeding get vaccinated against the coronavirus as soon as possible.
Covid-19 poses a harsh risk during pregnancy, when a person’s immune system is tamped down, and raises the risk of stillbirth or another poor outcome, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Twenty-two pregnant people in the United States died of Covid in August, the highest number in a single month since the pandemic started.
About 125,000 pregnant people have tested positive for the virus; 22,000 have been hospitalized, and 161 have died. Hospital data indicates that 97 percent of those who were infected with the virus when they were hospitalized — for illness, or for labor and delivery — were not vaccinated.
Vaccination rates among pregnant people are lower than among the general population. Fewer than one-third were vaccinated before or during their pregnancy, the agency said.
The rates vary widely by race and ethnicity, with the highest — nearly 50 percent — among pregnant Asian American people, and the lowest rates among pregnant Black people, at 15 percent.
Pregnancy is on the C.D.C.’s list of health conditions that increase the risk of harsh Covid. Though the absolute risk of harsh disease is low, pregnant patients who are symptomatic are more than twice as likely as other symptomatic patients to require admission to intensive care or interventions like mechanical ventilation, and may be more likely to die.
Some data also suggest that pregnant people with Covid-19 are more likely to experience conditions that complicate pregnancy — such as a kind of high blood pressure called pre-eclampsia — compared with pregnant people who don’t have Covid. Pregnant people with the disease are also at increased risk for poor birth outcomes, like preterm birth.
Clinical trials have a long history of excluding pregnant people from participation, and pregnant people were not included in the coronavirus vaccine trials. As a consequence, data on the safety and effectiveness of vaccines is limited in this group.
Studies conducted since the vaccines were empowered, however, have shown that the vaccines do not increase the risk of a miscarriage. Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines produced strong immune responses in pregnant people and did not damage the placenta, researchers have found.
“Pregnancy can be both a special time and also a stressful time, and pregnancy during a pandemic is an additional concern for family,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the C.D.C.’s director.
She promoted pregnant people and those who may become pregnant “to talk with their health care provider about the protective benefits of the Covid-19 vaccine to keep their babies and themselves safe.”
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