Vaccine Distribution and Central America

Vaccine Distribution Inequalities and the Impact on Farmers in Central America

San Francisco, California

The coronavirus pandemic continues to present an unprecedented challenge with equitable distribution of vaccines, especially in the Northern Triangle. This region—home to countries like Guatemala and Nicaragua—do not have the purchasing power or health care systems in place to acquire and distribute vaccines. In an effort to reduce global inequities of vaccine access and distribution, the WHO launched the COVID-19 Vaccine Global Access, or COVAX, to ensure vaccine access to the world’s most vulnerable. Living conditions have deteriorated over the past year due to COVID-19 and two hurricanes, Eta and Iota, have devastated rural and coastal communities in the region.

COVAX is set up to ensure equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines starting in Q1 2021, after sealing agreements to access 2 billion doses of a number of different products [1]. By combining the purchasing power of 190 countries – a list that does not include the U.S. – COVAX now has access to the biggest portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines, minimizing the risk of failures in clinical trials, and striking a balance across products with different characteristics [2]. Nicaragua recently began its COVID-19 vaccination campaign for people with pre-existing conditions such as heart disease, kidney failure, and cancer [3]. Last week, the country received its first batch of vaccine doses from Russia’s Sputnik V product [4]. Guatemala is expected to receive its first shipment of vaccines through COVAX by the end of the month, but deliveries have been delayed [5]. 

Hurricane Eta and Iota storm tracks and rainfall received over cropland areas in Central America and the Caribbean. Source: GEOGLAM
Hurricane Eta and Iota storm tracks and rainfall received over cropland areas in Central America and the Caribbean. Source: GEOGLAM

Last November, two Category 4 hurricanes—Eta, following Iota two weeks later—devastated Central America with Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala having the highest affected populations, respectively [6]. Approximately 7.3 million people have been affected due to the persistent rains and heavy winds resulting in flooding, landslides, and crop damage across the region [7]. The two hurricanes displaced tens of thousands of people, killing roughly 200 [8].

Palm trees blow in the wind as Nicaragua prepares to receive hurricane Iota on November 16, 2020, in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.
Palm trees blow in the wind as Nicaragua prepares to receive hurricane Iota on November 16, 2020, in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.

In Nicaragua’s northeast region, coastal communities face a climate change dilemma to rebuild coastal communities or resettle inland [9]. Hurricane disruptions have impacted villages in places like Haulover, where the storms have decimated coconut-trees and mangrove forests impacting their local economies and livelihoods. For those that move inland, it will be an adjustment from their coastline customs. Around 60 families decided to move inland, but in doing so will require adopting farming practices, which is a complicated transition for Indigenous people with strong cultural relationships to the sea [10].

As climate-related events continue to intensify and become more frequent and destructive in places like Central America, we must all—as active, global citizens in the imperative age of sustainable, human development—do our part to support those who are at the forefront of these vulnerable epicenters. ViviendasLeon, an NGO, works with rural communities in Nicaragua and Central America to achieve measurable, sustainable improvements in their standards of living. By getting involved—by means of partnerships, immersion programs, and/or fundraising—we can continue to address both the practical and human-oriented challenges experienced by rural families.


Written By Jesse G., Policy Research and Grants Intern


Work Cited

  1. https://www.bioworld.com/articles/501573-equal-access-190-countries-pool-purchasing-power-for-covid-19-vaccines
  2. Ibid. 
  3. https://www.reuters.com/article/health-cornavirus-nicaragua-vaccine/nicaragua-to-begin-covid-19-vaccination-campaign-on-tuesday-idUSE1N2HU029
  4. Ibid.
  5. https://www.reuters.com/article/health-coronavirus-guatemala-vaccine/guatemala-to-receive-russias-sputnik-vaccine-in-coming-weeks-idUSL4N2KU0D6
  6. https://reliefweb.int/report/honduras/special-report-impact-november-hurricanes-eta-and-iota-segundapostrera-cropping
  7. Ibid. 
  8. Ibid. 
  9. https://www.nytimes.com/2021/02/03/world/nicaragua-hurricane-eta-iota-video.html
  10. Ibid.

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