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Grandparents in Peru Can Hug Their Grandkids Again, Thanks to COVAX
Eager to receive their COVID-19 shots, the elderly made their way to the vaccination center in Lima, Peru, leaning on canes or rolling up in wheelchairs pushed by family members and caregivers. For Peru's senior citizens, being vaccinated means a fresh lease on life and the freedom to put their arms around their grandchildren again.
"Joy is in my heart. I am getting a little bit more life to have my family, for my family to have me," 83-year-old Artemio Baldoceda, below, said triumphantly as he sat resting after receiving his vaccination. "You miss especially the grandchildren. One waits for that moment to come when you can bear hug them."
Peru received COVID-19 vaccine doses through the multiagency COVAX Facility, led by the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI); Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance; the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO); the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF. COVAX has delivered almost 93 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to 134 countries and territories since February.
More than 2 million people in Peru have tested positive for COVID-19 and almost 200,000 have died; the nation has one of the world's highest COVID-19 death rates as a proportion of the population, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Older adults are among the most vulnerable to COVID-19, so they are given priority for vaccination in Peru, along with frontline health care workers and people with comorbidities. When he heard he was eligible for the vaccine, 83-year-old Miguel Morales dropped everything and hurried with his wife to the vaccination center. "I was so happy," he said, flashing the V for vaccinated sign and his new immunization card.
"I feel as if every person I vaccinate could be my mom or dad," said Wendiha Phacana, a nurse at Los Libertadores Health Center. "They are people at risk," added Shirley Coca, above, a nurse at Northern Lima Health Directorate. "Being able to care for them is very gratifying for us."
More than 30 percent of the world's COVID-19 deaths are now found in Latin America and the Caribbean, where cases are soaring, even among younger age groups. Less than 11 percent of the hard-hit region is fully vaccinated.
On June 3, the United States announced plans to share 80 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with countries around the world, either directly or via COVAX. Some 14 million doses were earmarked for Latin American and Caribbean countries including Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Paraguay, Bolivia, Uruguay, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, and other Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries, Dominican Republic, Panama and Costa Rica.
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Top photo: The elderly were prioritized for vaccination after Peru received its first shipment of COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX Facility, a multi-agency partnership working to ensure the equitable distribution of vaccines worldwide. Photos by Jose Vilca for UNICEF. Video by Tong Su for UNICEF USA.