As vaccinations in the U.S. have slowed significantly from their peak, they have risen sharply in Latin America, with a host of countries now inoculating against Covid-19 at a far higher rate than their richer neighbor to the north.
The progress in Latin America is built on two factors that have gotten little attention: In many countries, people are eager to get vaccinated and largely trust vaccines, more so than in many richer countries, including the U.S.
At the same time, vaccine supply problems are being slowly overcome. Far greater numbers of vaccines are now arriving from the U.S., U.K., Russia and China, allowing local health officials to pick up the pace. The region has also received a significant number of doses from the United Nation’s Covax program
“Latin America has always been a champion for vaccination and people trust vaccines,” said Patricia García, a former Peruvian health minister and epidemiologist. “We don’t a large contingent of anti-vaxxer and conspiracy theory proponents down here. If we are able to get enough supply of the vaccines, we can catch up.”
Roughly two-thirds of people in Chile and Uruguay are fully vaccinated, compared with about half in the U.S. Most of the rest of Latin America is still behind the U.S. in the share of people with one or both vaccine doses, but a number of countries are closing the gap fast.
In recent weeks, Brazil, which has 30 percent fewer people than the U.S., has been applying nearly 1.5 million doses a day, double the 750,000 or so daily doses in the U.S., according to Our World in Data. On a per capita basis, the U.S. is currently vaccinating at half the rate of Mexico and a third the rate of Peru, Colombia and Argentina. In the past two weeks, Ecuador vaccinated its population at a rate 10 times higher than the U.S. while Panama vaccinated at six times the U.S. rate.
For several days in the last two weeks of July, Ecuador, with a population of 17 million, was administering more shots per day than the U.S., with 330 million.
At the current rate of inoculation, Panama, Peru and Ecuador could join Chile and Uruguay by early September in overtaking the U.S. in percentage of the population vaccinated.
In addition to catching up with vaccines, most Latin American countries are seeing marked reduction in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks. Peru, the world leader in Covid deaths per capita only a month ago, today has half the rate of the U.S.