At the beginning of this year, South America was considered a hot spot for COVID-19 cases, with thousands of new infections flooding hospitals each day. This was particularly true for the countries of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay, who collectively accounted for a quarter of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. from January 2021 up until recently.
Epidemiologists were surprised, however, to see a sudden drop of COVID-19 cases in South America, with graphs showing a sharp and fast decline of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in the aforementioned nations. This follows the arrival of vaccines in the region and the ramped-up vaccination rates across the U.S.
Vaccination Rates in South American Nations
Amid the rampage of the delta variant, South American nations are enjoying a breath of relief. Epidemiologists are still unable to accurately explain why, considering that there is no large-scale containment currently being practiced in the region, except for strict border protocols and the usual health guidelines of mask-wearing and social distancing. However, experts suggest that the drop in COVID-19 surges can be attributed to the speed of vaccine inoculation.
Before vaccines became available in South America, the region was the epicenter of the pandemic. But since they have received access to available vaccines, their vaccination rates have consistently soared.
Brazil, for example, has one of the best performing vaccine inoculation systems, with 64% of citizens having received their first dose and exceeding the inoculation rates of the U.S. The nations of Chile and Uruguay have vaccinated more than 70% of their population, and 61% of Argentinians are partially vaccinated against COVID-19.
In effect, South American nations have halted the spread of the delta variant among their respective communities, putting them in a position of being one of the firsts to achieve herd immunity.
South America Sets an Example
The rapid decline of COVID-19 cases in South America is almost difficult to perceive, considering their position as a critical COVID-19 destination just a couple of months ago. But with their steady and consistent vaccination performance, the region is sparking hope not only for its nations but for the rest of the world.
In-person classes in the majority of schools in South America have resumed, local and international flights are booking fast, and people are able to go out for work and leisure. The UN has also projected economic growth for Latin America and the Caribbean, expecting a 5.9% increase in GDP by the end of 2021.
If at all, the positive COVID-19 situation in South America serves an important lesson about vaccination — and why governments all over the world should prioritize it. With more people building immunity against the virus, its variants are disabled and the risk of mutation and transmission is significantly decreased.
South America is giving us hope that as long as vaccine inoculation keeps going and more people get their shots, we can achieve herd immunity and regain normalcy. But despite this good news, it’s important that we do not relax nor become complacent about mask-wearing and physical distancing to prevent backsliding to new surges.