BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Vaccination campaigns against the coronavirus in Latin America should prioritize vulnerable groups such as indigenous people and the homeless, who are at higher risk of dying from the virus, UNESCO said on Tuesday.
Health workers, educators, the elderly and people with pre-existing health risks were given priority in vaccine distribution in Latin America. But the region's gaping economic divisions also need to be considered, an official from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) told Reuters.
"This is the region hardest hit by COVID in the world. And it is a region with a lot of inequality," Guillermo Anllo, regional head for Latin America and the Caribbean of the agency's Scientific, Technological and Innovation Policy Program, said in a telephone interview from his office in Montevideo.
According to UNESCO projections, only a third of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean will have been immunized by the end of the year.
Anllo stressed the importance of equity in the distribution of vaccines in a region with seven of the 15 countries in the world with the highest COVID-19 mortality rates.
"It is not enough to say we are going to prioritize those with comorbidities or essential groups. Other variables must be included," Anllo said, referring to indigenous communities, Afro-descendants, migrants and homeless people.
Argentina, Brazil and Mexico are producers of some coronavirus vaccines. But an insufficient number of doses have been produced so far.
(Reporting by Lucila Sigal; writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Sandra Maler)