PANAMA CITY (Reuters) – Panama is weeks away from achieving herd immunity against COVID-19 after vaccinating more than half its population of 4.2 million people, President Laurentino Cortizo said on Thursday at the United Nations General Assembly.
Panama acted with “foresight” and managed to secure enough vaccines despite global supply challenges, Cortizo said at the assembly in New York.
“Thanks to this, we are only weeks away from reaching herd immunity,” Cortizo said, adding that “global immunity” should be a shared goal.
Herd immunity occurs when a large enough portion of the population is immune to a pathogen, either by vaccination or prior infection, stopping spread of the virus. Health experts have said about 70% to 80% of the population must be immunized to reach some level of herd immunity, but that figure can vary.
Panama has so far received 7.2 million doses of vaccines from Pfizer Inc and AstraZeneca Plc. It has administered 5.3 million of those shots, according to Ministry of Health data.
Panama has reported 465,147 COVID-19 cases and 7,183 related deaths.
Some health experts have cast doubt on the goal of reaching herd immunity considering the ability of the coronavirus to mutate quickly into new, highly transmissible variants.
Health Minister Luis Sucre has attributed Panama’s control on the pandemic to a sustained fall in daily infections that enabled a gradual economic reopening.
(Reporting by Eli Moreno, writing by Cassandra Garrison; Editing by Bill Berkrot)