PAHO's recommendation regarding the WHO global target for COVID-19 vaccination coverage rate

24 Jun 2022

This technical note follows the publication of the World Health Organization (WHO) Strategy to Achieve Global Covid-19 Vaccination by mid-2022 on 6 October 2021. This strategic document states that the goal of global COVID-19 vaccination efforts is to “substantially increase population immunity globally to protect people everywhere from disease, protect the health system, fully restart economies, restore the health of society, and lower the risk of new variants.” This strategy outlines the actions required by the global community to vaccinate 70% of the world’s population against COVID-19 by 30 June 2022. Interim targets were 10% full vaccination population coverage in all countries by 30 September 2021, and 40% in all countries by 31 December 2021. As of 15 June 2022, 17 countries in the region have reach the goal.

COVID cases have been rising in the Americas for the past eight weeks. Last week, our Region reported more than 1.2 million new cases, a relative increase of 11% as compared to the previous week, and 4,069 new deaths, a 19.4% increase. COVID-19 vaccination efforts must continue in all countries and territories of the region of the Americas to minimize further COVID-related disease and deaths, reduce the burden on national healthcare systems, and ensure equitable access to those who have not yet received a single dose – starting from the most vulnerable.

The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) recommends that national COVID-19 vaccination operations continue with intensified efforts to reach at least 70% of the total population. Vaccinating 70% of the global population will raise immunity throughout the adult and adolescent population to reduce serious disease, and mortality, not only in those most at risk but also protecting more broadly those at lower risk of severe disease. At the same time, vaccination operations will continue to reduce infection and transmission and mitigate future risks (i.e., surges in cases and death due to variants, as well as the effects of long-COVID). Vaccination is the best available protection from disease and death.

Nonetheless, achieving this global vaccination target for the general population is not sufficient to impact the health outcomes of a country, unless the most vulnerable achieve high vaccination coverage first. Countries should redouble their efforts to vaccinate persons who have not yet received a single dose of COVID-19 vaccine. Additional resources should be dedicated to reaching persons in high-risk priority groups (i.e., elderly, immunocompromised, pregnant women, health workers) and offering them all doses included in the national vaccination schedule (primary series and booster doses).

At this moment, there are enough vaccine doses to achieve the global target of 70% coverage in the Americas. Countries should reassess their vaccination coverage rates periodically (e.g., every 2-3 months) and make the necessary adjustment to address bottlenecks and improve vaccine uptake. PAHO will continue to champion the equitable distribution and administration of vaccines globally as essential to ending the acute phase of the pandemic. Also, countries should tailor their communication strategies to engage persons who remain reticent towards COVID-19 vaccines, address their concerns quickly and transparently, and tailor interventions to promote vaccine demand.

Finally, countries should move towards integration of COVID-19 vaccination operations into the national immunization program, so that the entire system may benefit from the resources of the pandemic response.