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By Anthony Boadle

BRASILIA, Brazil, Weds. Nov 3, 2021 (Reuters) – COVID-19 deaths and infections have declined across the Americas for the 8th consecutive week, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said today.

But the agency is warning that a very high percentage of hospitalized cases now are unvaccinated people.

In North America, all three countries reported drops in weekly cases and deaths, and there has been a notable decline in hospitalizations in the United States and Canada, PAHO said, with similar declines in South and Central America.

The regional health branch of the World Health Organization said 46% of the Latin American and Caribbean population have been fully vaccinated, and a majority of countries have already reached the WHO’s 40% vaccination coverage target set for the end of the year.

“Vaccine inequity remains the biggest barrier to reaching our coverage targets,” PAHO Assistant Director Jarbas Barbosa said in a briefing.

Given the limited supply of vaccines, he urged authorities to prioritize the elderly, frontline workers, and people with pre-existing conditions, to protect them and also to prevent health systems from becoming overburdened with severe cases.

PAHO recommends providing booster doses to people who are immunocompromised, including cancer patients, HIV positive individuals, patients on corticoids and transplant recipients.

PAHO said people over the age of 60 who received inactivated virus vaccines made by China’s Sinovac Biotech and Sinopharm should also get booster shots.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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