Vaccinations underway, small Pacific nation eyes herd immunity

Tim Balk, New York Daily News

The small Pacific island nation of Palau could soon become its own post-pandemic paradise.

Vaccine injections started Sunday on the archipelago after Moderna shots arrived earlier in the weekend, the republic’s ministry of health said.

The country, home to some 18,000 people, received 2,800 doses on Saturday morning, according to the health ministry. Health care providers and first responders were placed at the front of the line to receive the two-dose regimen.

Palau, formerly under U.S. administration, received its shipment through an Operation Warp Speed program that allocates vaccine shipments corresponding to population size. The nation continues to receive American assistance as part of a 1994 pact with the U.S.

“We are lucky to be in a position where we have access to vaccines through OWS, and our small size makes it easier for us to roll out the program,” said Ritter Udui, incident commander for the Ministry of Health, according to CNN. “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.”

Palau hadn’t recorded a single COVID-19 case during the pandemic as of Monday.