Monday marked one year since Palau rolled out the COVID-19 vaccination program; since then, 95 percent of the approximately 18,000 population have been fully vaccinated.
But even with those protections, Minister of Health and Human Services (MHHS) Gaafar Uherbelau urged the community to remain “remain resilient and adaptive to the latest developments with the pandemic.”
“It’s certainly been a long year since we started administering COVID-19 vaccine in Palau since on January 3, 2021 and there’s still a lot of uncertainty as to when the pandemic will end,” Minister Uherbelau told Island Times.
But amid the rising new COVID- 19 infections globally, Uherbelau said Palau’s mass vaccination program is a success, with over 30,000 shots have been administered and 16,728 people have been fully vaccinated, including as young as five years old.
He said the campaign’s success is made possible with the community’s trust for the COVID-19 vaccine.
“What we are seeing is the tremendous success we’ve had with the mass vaccination campaign over the year. And that’s really only made possible by the environment of the community, their willingness to come in and get vaccinated, “he said.
Minister Uherbelau added that the mass vaccination campaign team also played a crucial role in the successful rollout in 2021.
“We thank our mass vaccination team for their efforts and hard work and then not only includes MHHS personnel but also our partners such as the Bureau of Public Safety.”
President Surangel Whipps Jr. was among the firsts to receive the first dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine on January 3, 2021.
At that time, Whipps said he wanted to lead by example and demonstrate to the public that the shots were safe and would protect them from the coronavirus.
“That is why we are here, the leadership, to lead by example. We want people to feel confident that it’s effective and a good vaccine,” Whipps said in 2021.
He wants to allay the fears of the public and dispel misinformation about the vaccine.
Last year, the first batch of 2,800 doses of coronavirus vaccines arrived in Palau on January 2 from the United States.
The Ministry of Health started administering the vaccine on January 3, 2021, prioritizing health workers, key officials, and decision-makers.
Palau is among the first nations in the Pacific to access COVID-19 vaccines via the US Operation Warp Speed.
Palau had a handful of confirmed COVID cases identified at the border. However, there have been no reported cases of community transmission within the republic.
One year after, Palau is one of the first nations in the Pacific to administer vaccines to the 5 to 11-year-old age group.
Uherbelau said the past year is also a time to “reflect on the lessons learned over the course of the past year, but we also want to make sure that we remain resilient and adapted to the latest developments with the pandemic.”