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Latin America surpasses 1 million COVID-19 deaths

Latin America struggles with coronavirus
Parts of Latin America struggle with surging coronavirus cases 02:17

More than 1 million total COVID-19 deaths have been reported in Latin America and the Caribbean as of Saturday, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University. The region — which accounts for 8% of the world population — has reported approximately 29% of all global COVID fatalities. 

"This is a tragic milestone for everyone in the region," Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) Director Carissa F. Etienne said Friday in a statement. "This pandemic is far from over, and it is hitting Latin America and the Caribbean severely, affecting our health, our economies, and entire societies."

With more than 446,000 deaths, Brazil has the highest death toll in the region and accounts for 44.5% of Latin America's deaths. The country has reported the second-highest number of deaths globally, behind only the United States.

Mexico has the second highest number of deaths in the region with more than 221,000, the fourth-highest death toll in the world. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has given the country the highest travel advisory possible, recommending that tourists "avoid all travel." However, under Mexico's federal stoplight metric system used to determine closures in the country during the pandemic, there were no states designated "red" — the strictest lockdown level —  between May 10 and May 23, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in Mexico said.

Despite rising deaths in the region, only about 3% of citizens in Latin America and the Caribbean have been vaccinated, PAHO reported Friday.  

Etienne said that the region's vaccination gap in comparison to reported vaccination numbers from other countries may be due to an "overdependence on imports for essential medical supplies." She said Wednesday that less than 4% of medical products used during the pandemic have come from within Latin America and the Caribbean. 

"Expanding our regional capacity to manufacture strategic medical supplies – especially vaccines – is a must, both for our people and as a matter of health security," Eitenne said. "We urgently need more vaccines for Latin America and the Caribbean, a region that has been put to the test by this pandemic."

President Joe Biden on Monday announced that the U.S. will send an additional 20 million doses of approved COVID-19 vaccines internationally, bringing the total number of doses sent abroad to 80 million by the end of June. 

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