Statement On The Arrival Of The First Batch Of COVID-19 Vaccines In Haiti
Attributable to Jean Gough, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean
NEW YORK (July 15, 2021) – Until yesterday, Haiti was the only country in the Americas without a single dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Today 500,000 doses of vaccine donated by the U.S government through COVAX landed in Port-Au-Prince, the capital city of Haiti.
In the first five months of this year, the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths has nearly doubled in Haiti. Amidst this recent upsurge, each of these 500,000 doses brings a ray of light to the Caribbean country, especially in times when increased urban violence threatens the well-being of children and families.
Thanks to this donation, hundreds of thousands of Haitians will receive their shots against COVID-19. Yet, despite the collective efforts to kickstart the vaccination campaign soon, most of the Haitian population is at risk of remaining unvaccinated due to the limited availability of doses currently in the country.
We hope this first donation of doses will be followed by others. More donations from well-supplied countries will be needed for Haiti and other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to reach those most vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.
Anywhere in the world, rolling out a largescale COVID-19 vaccination campaign is a daunting task. But in the current Haitian context, it is going to be an uphill battle for our teams in the coming weeks and months.
When gangs are shooting at each other in the streets, transporting vaccines safely from one health center to the other every day is a victory. Without reliable electricity, keeping large number of vaccine doses always cool throughout the journey is a feat.
To speed up the upcoming COVID-19 vaccination campaign, UNICEF has been working around the clock to enhance transportation, increase mass communication and strengthen the cold chain across the country. In almost every single health center of Haiti, our teams have installed solar fridges to keep vaccines at the right temperature –over 900 in total.
In the context of Haiti where vaccine hesitancy is high, reaching communities with doses of vaccines doesn’t guarantee they want to get vaccinated. According to the preliminary results of a UNICEF-supported perception study conducted by the University of Haiti in June, only 22 percent of all Haitians would accept to be vaccinated.
Together with the Haitian authorities, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and other partners, UNICEF is committed to make extra efforts in response to the long-awaited need for vaccines in Haiti until the most vulnerable groups of the population are protected against COVID-19.
As vaccines touched ground at the Port-au-Prince airport, our toughest job on the ground has yet to begin. Unless each of these 500,000 doses gets into the arms of Haitian people swiftly and safely, COVID-19 vaccines won’t help save Haitian lives and curb the spread of the pandemic in the Americas.
Last June, urban violence among armed groups escalated in several areas of the capital city during a spike of COVID-19 cases. Over 15,000 women and children have now been forced to flee their home. Rising insecurity and clashes between gangs have seriously hindered humanitarian operations in the outskirts of Port-au-Prince.
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