SYDNEY — The tiny Pacific nation of Palau has the world's highest percentage of people vaccinated against COVID-19, the Red Cross said on Thursday, urging the country's laggard neighbors to follow its example and step up inoculation efforts.
Fully 99% of Palau's population over 12 has had both shots of vaccine for the new coronavirus, the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) said, citing government figures which also show that this amounts to 16,152 people.
That puts Palau, an archipelago of 500 islands in the western Pacific Ocean, in the "top spot," the IFRC said in a statement, ahead of countries like Portugal which was named one of the world's most vaccinated countries when 80% of its 10 million people were fully immunized last month.
It also presents a stark contrast with other small nations in the region that have had sluggish vaccine rollouts due to supply constraints and population hesitancy. Less than 10% of the Solomon Islands (population 650,000) and Kiribati (population 119,000) are vaccinated, the IFRC said.
In Papua New Guinea, 150 km (93 miles) north of Australia, less than 1% of the population is fully vaccinated, it added, citing Our World in Data figures.
The urgency of increasing vaccination rates in the region was increased by the coming Pacific cyclone season, which could cause more damage to livelihoods already impacted by the pandemic, the IFRC said.
Palau was not alone among the Pacific nations that are leading the world in vaccination rates, on a per capita basis. The Cook Islands (population 17,000) had 96% of its eligible population fully vaccinated, while Fiji (population 896,000) had 96% of eligible people with one dose, the IFRC said. — Reuters