Vaccination The Pacific
The Lowy Institute
Custom Backend Development,
Data Analysis & Modelling
Lowy Institute - Vaccinating The Pacific
The Pacific, as with many developing regions, continues to grapple with the economic and human costs of the Covid-19 pandemic. While Pacific Island states were initially successful in leveraging their isolation to protect populations, new variants and capacity issues have created enduring challenges for the region.
What has emerged is a tale of two trajectories for the Pacific’s small and large states. Where most Pacific microstates reached full or near-full vaccination rates by the end of 2021, health sector capacity and vaccine hesitancy significantly impacted vaccination efforts in the region’s larger countries.
This Interactive provides country-specific modelling of Covid-19 vaccination rates for each Pacific Island Country, using the latest data available. The Interactive also employs a range of static data, which for the first time ever generates a robust model for each of the Pacific Island Countries (see Methodology).
The modelling reveals a divided Pacific. Many Pacific nations — particularly the microstates such as Nauru, Niue and Palau — have been world leading in their vaccination efforts, achieving near complete vaccination coverage by October 2021. Other states such as Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Tuvalu, thanks in large part to effective rollout campaigns, achieved similar success by the end of 2021.
Two outliers however — Papua New Guinea and Solomon Islands — are on track to be amongst the last in the world to reach high levels of vaccination. In these countries, the challenges of health sector capacity and vaccine demand are so great that Solomon Islands is expected to have fully vaccinated its adult population only by late 2025, while Papua New Guinea is projected to reach 37 per cent when the model ends in 2027.
Rates of vaccination do not follow linear trends in the Pacific due to a range of supply and demand factors. Over the course of 2021, the supply of Covid-19 vaccines to the Pacific has been guaranteed, initially through the COVAX facility and later by Australia and other donors. The arrival of vaccine deliveries can often lead to an initial surge in domestic vaccination uptake. However, as vaccination rates increase, variables such as vaccine hesitancy, difficulty in reaching rural populations and the number of available vaccinators slow down the pace of vaccinations.
This graph shows the existing and expected rates of vaccination in each country, and can be sorted by 18+ populations, 12+ populations and total populations based on best available data.
Over the course of 2021, the challenge for vaccination programs in the Pacific has steadily shifted from one of supply to one of demand. Global vaccine shortages have made it difficult for many developing nations to secure enough supply to implement robust national rollouts. Given the Pacific’s relatively small size and weak bargaining power in global vaccine supply, it was anticipated that Pacific nations would fall towards the back of the global queue. Thanks to the vaccine diplomacy of several donors to the Pacific, this scenario was averted.
Most Pacific countries were eligible to access the rapid response COVAX Facility, a worldwide initiative for equitable access to vaccines that provides initial doses to cover, at a minimum, countries’ frontline healthcare workforce. Compact States in the North Pacific were incorporated into the domestic rollout of the United States’ vaccine efforts. The Realm nations of Cook Islands and Niue also benefited from their unique relationship with New Zealand in gaining quick access to vaccines. Other donors including Japan and China were quick to make vaccine commitments to the Pacific throughout 2021.
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