Statement on the cause of the passing of PAHO Director Emeritus

7 Dec 2023
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7 Dec 2023

On 1 December, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) announced the passing of PAHO Director Emeritus Dr. Carissa F. Etienne.

Shortly thereafter, PAHO was made aware of misinformation circulating in the Caribbean, via WhatsApp voice message, attributing her cause of death to the COVID-19 vaccine. This is false information. While Dr. Etienne’s long-term health status remains confidential to her family and physicians, her passing was in no way related to the COVID-19 vaccine.

PAHO considers this communication defamatory and deeply disrespectful of Dr. Etienne's legacy and achievements on vaccination all over the Americas. PAHO has reported this incident to the United Nations Department of Safety and Security (UNDSS) and local authorities.

PAHO continues to mourn the passing of Dr. Etienne, under whose steadfast leadership and guidance, the organization achieved significant milestones for the region of the Americas, while leading the response to the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic.

PAHO recommends COVID-19 vaccines as a safe and highly effective tool in preventing severe illness, hospitalization, and death against all strains of the SARS-CoV02 virus. COVID-19 vaccines have saved millions of lives. Misinformation and fake news about vaccines can prevent some people to get their shots and make them vulnerable to severe disease and death. 

Vaccines are the best public health intervention. Let's keep our population healthy and using vaccines to prevent diseases and deaths.