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Some Pacific Nations Won’t Vaccinate Populations for Years, Research Finds


Papua New Guinea will only have vaccinated a third of its adult population by 2026 if it continues at its current rate, according to new search by an Australian think tank that predicts some Pacific countries will take years to vaccinate their populations.

Research by the Lowy Institute think tank, using modeling based on existing immunization rates and factors such as demographics, vaccine acceptance rates, and health sector capacity, found that while some Pacific countries lead the global vaccination rate rankings, others fall far behind.

“The Pacific is divided when it comes to vaccinations,” said Alexandre Dayant, study author and researcher at the Lowy Institute, warning that the slowness of vaccination in some countries increases the risk of new variants emerging.

Palau has administered at least one dose of vaccine to 99% of residents. Tonga and Samoa are expected to vaccinate their adult populations before the end of the year, according to modeling, which is subject to change.

However, Solomon Islands is not expected to fully immunize its adult population until April 2026, when Vanuatu is estimated to have vaccinated 86 percent of its adult population so far. And Papua New Guinea, the slowest in the region, will only have vaccinated around 16% of its population by December 2022.

These countries have been hampered by overburdened health systems and widespread misinformation about vaccines, Dayant said.

Facebook is often the main source of information for people there, and unsubstantiated theories of Western conspiracies to inoculate people with microchips and black magic are circulating on social media, he said, adding: “Disinformation is spreading much faster than the virus in the Pacific”.

He said rich countries could do more, such as strengthening local health systems. “It is in the world’s interest to vaccinate developing countries,” he said.