When Global Citizen last deep-dived into the success of the vaccine rollout in the Pacific back in August, it was clear that despite best intentions, major inequality persisted, with some countries across the region yet to fully vaccinate 1% of their population.
Four months later, as 2021 comes to an end, we are revisiting the issue in hopes of significant improvements.
In August, Australia was amid the very worst of the pandemic. Lockdowns were held in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland and South Australia, and cases were steadily on the rise, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria, with daily cases creeping up over 1,000.
Just over 30% of the nation was fully vaccinated.
In the months since, nationwide cases peaked at 2,688 in mid-October, before dropping in November to sit at around 1,500, where it has remained ever since. Now, as of Dec. 13, the country is almost entirely open to domestic travel and an impressive 89.2% of citizens aged 16 and over have been fully vaccinated.
Moderna and Pfizer vaccine boosters are approved for those aged over 18 at least five months after their last vaccination.
By January, 4.1 million Australians will be eligible to have the booster.
By mid-January, Australia’s COVID-19 program will be extended to all children aged 5 to 11.
After six months without a single case of local transmission, New Zealand recorded one new COVID-19 case on Aug. 24.
The single case thrust the country into a lockdown, and while cases did dip slightly in September and October, confirmed cases have unfortunately continued to rise into November and December.
In August, just under 3 million jabs had been given in the country, with a little over 1 million people — around 21% of the 5 million population — fully vaccinated. Today, over 7 million vaccine doses have been administered, with 89% of the population fully vaccinated and 94% partially vaccinated.
Those under 12 are not currently eligible for the vaccine.
Papua New Guinea
As of mid-August, under 145,000 vaccines had been administered in Papua New Guinea, with less than 1% of the population fully vaccinated.
After truly horrendous outbreaks between March and June, and then again between September and November, confirmed cases finally seem to be reducing across the island nation. Still, despite best efforts from countries like Australia and New Zealand and vaccine equity partnership the COVAX Facility, just 2.2% of the population are fully vaccinated.
The issue, it seems, is not vaccine access but rather a cultural vaccine hesitancy.
"Millions of Papua New Guineans are not getting vaccinated against COVID-19 because they are terrified of this specific vaccine. This is not ‘vaccine hesitancy,’ but full-blown opposition, a genuine antipathy,” Fraser Macdonald, a senior lecturer in anthropology at New Zealand’s University of Waikato, wrote for the Conversation. “Community vaccine rollouts have been targeted with death threats, attacked by furious crowds and castigated as a ‘campaign of terror.’ The recently introduced ‘no jab, no job’ policy, meanwhile, has met with lawsuits, mass resignations and the fraudulent acquisition of vaccination certificates to circumvent the dreaded vaccine.”
Macdonald said detailed information about the vaccine, including its creation and side effects, must be made fully known.
“Insisting a population with minimal information be vaccinated is not ethical or fair,” he added.
Just under 230,000 COVID-19 vaccines have now been distributed nationwide — up from 71,000 in August.
The country had recorded just 20 cases and 0 deaths when Global Citizen last reported. Today, those numbers remain. However, just 6.8% of the population is fully vaccinated, up from 2.2% in August.
Research released in November by Australian think tank the Lowy Institute predicts the Solomon Islands may only have vaccinated 66% of its eligible adults by December 2022. The institute considers factors like population, urbanisation rates, vaccine hesitancy, the number of available health workers and the number of vaccine doses each health care professional can administer daily to make their predictions.
Samoa, which received tens of thousands of vaccines from the COVAX Facility and Australia earlier this year, has vaccinated more than half its population, with 249,000 doses administered and 109,000 people fully vaccinated. The country has so far recorded just one COVID-19 case on Nov. 30.
On Sept. 23 and 24, the country held a two-day lockdown in an effort to boost vaccination numbers.
The two-day campaign succeeded, adding 12% to the number of Samoans who have received a first dose of the vaccine.
In early November, Tonga recorded its first COVID-19 case since the pandemic began.
Thankfully, no other cases have been recorded. As of Dec. 9, 95% of those aged 18 and above have had their first dose, while 73% have been fully vaccinated, according to Tonga's news website Matangi Tonga Online. In advance of the nation's current stockpile of AstraZeneca vaccines set to expire on Dec. 13, the country's Ministry of Health urged all who were eligible and yet to be vaccinated to come forward.
By the end of November, 27% of the adult population of Vanuatu had been fully vaccinated, and 57% had received their first dose. The country hopes that by March 2022, 70% will be fully vaccinated, and 90% will have received at least one dose. Just over 60% of those aged 55 or older have been fully vaccinated, while the same can be said for 80% of health and frontline workers.
Just 0.55% of the population had been fully vaccinated in August.
Like Tonga and Samoa, Fiji is well on track with its vaccine rollout. Over 65% — or 589,000 people — have been fully vaccinated across the country, with 73% vaccinated with at least one dose. In August, over a quarter of the Fijian population had been fully vaccinated, with at least 61% having received one dose.
Thankfully, the nation's daily COVID-19 cases numbers, which peaked in July at over 1,300, have dwindled to almost zero.
Just under 14,000 vaccines are thought to have been administered to the I-Kiribati people in August, a figure that has now grown to 82,000, with 22,000 people — or 19% of the population — fully vaccinated. The country has maintained its COVID-19- free status as of Dec. 13.
Last but not least, Timor-Leste has administered over 1.4 million vaccine doses, resulting in 490,000 people fully vaccinated out of the county's 1.3 million population. In August, just under half a million jabs had been distributed, with 143,000 people, 11% of the population, fully vaccinated.