As countries around the world have started rolling out their vaccination program to provide immunity against the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), the Republic of Palau is poised to become one of the first countries to vaccinate the majority of its population. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), the pacific nation, an archipelago home to about 18,000 people, is yet to report its first case of coronavirus.
Palau is a sovereign nation in free association with the United States and, under an agreement signed in 1982, the latter remains responsible for Palau’s defense until 2044. The archipelago has also access to Washington’s social services, making it a part of US’ mass Covid-19 vaccination program – Operation Warp Speed.
The Republic of Palau is home to about 18,000 people. The island received its first shipment of the vaccine developed by US pharmaceutical company Moderna on the first day of the new year 2021. Vaccinations started the next day, Palau’s Ministry of Health announced on Twitter.
The first shipment included 2,800 doses of the vaccine, which will be administered in two shots, 28 days apart. Health care workers, key officials and vulnerable groups will be among the first to receive the vaccine, according to the ministry’s statement.
To date, Palau has not recorded a single coronavirus case or virus-related death, according to the World Health Organization.
In January of 2020, as the virus began to spread across Asia and the Pacific, before it really became evident to the United States, Palau was among the first to implement stricter border controls. Its borders were entirely locked by March, and it began testing citizens for the virus by April. These measures were key to keeping Covid-19 out, Palau’s ambassador to the UN said in May.
Incident Commander of the Ministry of Health, Ritter Udui, reportedly said that small population puts Palau in prime position to become one of the first countries in the world to be inoculated against the virus. According to a CNN report, Palau’s goal is to vaccinate 80 per cent of its population and achieve herd immunity.
“Government of India, through India-UN Fund, in partnership with UNOSSC&UNOPS, has provided invaluable support to improve our healthcare system, & rapid response to pandemic preparations” H.E. Tommy Remengesau Jr, President of Palau #UNGA @IndiaUNNewYork @UNOSSC @MEAIndia pic.twitter.com/zHkgvm3d19
— India-UN Development Partnership Fund (@IndiaUNFund) September 23, 2020
“It’s not compulsory to receive the vaccine, so our goal is to vaccinate about 80% of the population. We hope to achieve herd immunity (through the vaccination program),” the Palau official was quoted saying to CNN.
Palau initially planned to have the vaccinations completed by May, but Udui said this deadline would “probably be extended” due to