Palau- The 1st Nation With Most Citizens Vaccinated For COVID-19

by Madonna Watts D'Souza
Palau- The 1st Nation With Most Citizens Vaccinated For COVID-19

January 28, 2021

Palau is the first nation to have most of its citizens vaccinated. But, while vaccination programmes have begun globally, it won't be enough to end the Coronavirus' terror.

With 2021, a new year began indeed. But the horrors of 2020 still loom around large. In fact, COVID-19 has seemed to take a rather unpredicted turn with a new mutant, rapidly spreading across the world and has already been detected in thirty-three nations.

To date, several nations are seeing contrasting outcomes among themselves. While several places in the United States have ICU capacities below 15 per cent and are battling a grim third wave, parts of the United Kingdom like England have been put into lockdowns one after another.

Prosperous nations like South Korea and Thailand are failing in their fight against COVID-19. However, on the opposite spectrum, countries like India have their cases mysteriously dropping down, despite inadequate safety precautions that have confused researchers.

Global Geographical Aspects

One thing observed was the geographic advantages of several nations like New Zealand and Australia. Both countries are islands and combined with strong governments and population size, have been able to keep the virus under control. However, some nations haven’t been touched by the Coronavirus, and one of those nations is Palau.

Palau is a tiny island in the Pacific Archipelago of Oceania. This island is a fully functional country with a population of 18,000 people. According to the World Health Organisation, Palau has recorded zero cases of COVID-19 to date.

Reinalda Ebiklou at the entrance to Belau National Hospital, the only hospital in the Pacific nation of Palau, which has recorded no cases of coronavirus. Photograph: Richard Brooks

Here's How Palau Will Soon Have Most of its Citizens Vaccinated

One of the reasons why Palau has been so successful in letting the virus not hamper their nation is through strict border restrictions. The borders were soon shut down in March, and the government started testing its citizens for the virus in April as a precautionary measure.

Palau additionally, is in free association with the United States, and hence Palau has access to the United States’ mass Covid-19 vaccination program, called Operation Warp Speed (OWS). When Pfizer was released, Palau couldn’t select the vaccine due to its ultra-cold storage requirements of -70 Celsius.

The Palauan Government has requested 30,000 vaccine doses from the US.

However, once Moderna was granted emergency approval, Palau did not waste time and ordered 2800 doses of the vaccine. Moderna is relatively easier to store than Pfizer due to its temperature requirements stored in a standard refrigerator. But in late December, the nation received a cold storage facility which could store up to 5000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine.

Health workers and the elderly are among the first in line to receive Palau's first batch of vaccines.

Crossing Bureaucratic Redtapes

Ritter Udui, Palau’s incident commander of the Ministry of Health, said, “We are fortunate to be in a situation where we have adequate access to vaccines through OWS, and our small size makes it viable for us to roll out the programme. It’s not required to receive the vaccine, so our goal is to vaccinate about 80% of the population. We hope to achieve herd immunity.”

I want to tell the city that I took the vaccine to guard them. So when it is their turn for it, please use it to protect us, the health care providers.

- Sylvia Osarch, Senior Doctor Tweet

Due to its small size, Palau initially planned to have most its citizens vaccinated by May. Still, the deadline could get extended since the US currently is facing a slowdown in vaccine distribution. Sylvia Osarch, a 60-year-old female senior doctor, was the first person to be administered the Moderna vaccine on Sunday. Osarch said, “I felt excited to set an example for my community.

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