AMIGOS has been involved in vaccination campaigns and public health initiatives in Latin America since our founding in 1965, a time when the world was making great strides in vaccinating against previously deadly diseases. At that time, our very first programs offered young people who were already vaccinated the opportunity to partner with medical professionals and support vaccination campaigns already underway against polio and other diseases throughout Latin America.
Today, we are facing the ongoing impacts of a global pandemic brought about by a new virus that causes COVID-19. One year into this crisis, we recognize that the communities in which we operate have been negatively impacted, not only by the disease itself, but also by the crippling effect the pandemic has had on livelihoods, economies, access to services, and so much more. We, together with our partner organizations, recognize that it is critical that COVID-19 vaccines are rapidly and equitably distributed and administered around the world. We also understand that the efforts to rebuild and revitalize our communities at home and abroad will likely take years, just as has been the case after other epidemics.
Given our history of involvement in vaccinations and public health, the question often arises as to whether AMIGOS volunteers will take part in vaccine administration and distribution. While we hope to support ongoing efforts to ensure that people throughout the Americas will have access to the vaccine, we believe it is most appropriate for health care workers and/or trained local community members—not AMIGOS volunteers—to administer COVID-19 vaccinations in their own communities.
These public health initiatives will take time; there are estimates that the work may extend through 2023 or beyond. Though AMIGOS volunteers will not be administering vaccines, there are still many opportunities for AMIGOS to play a meaningful role in supporting community action and public health campaigns addressing the challenges that have arisen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As we move into the second year of this global crisis, we are actively communicating with our local partner organizations and exploring how we might most effectively and appropriately fit into the larger response to the pandemic and its effects in the years ahead. In the meantime, we will continue to run transformational programs for young people from the U.S. and Latin America, rooted in leadership development, ethical service, and cultural humility.
The programs we are offering in 2021 are built around critical issues faced by our host communities, like conservation, food justice, climate change, and disaster recovery. Local communities are addressing these topics in innovative ways that we can support and learn from.
If you are connected to an organization that would like to partner with AMIGOS, please reach out to us via email at [email protected].