Uneven vaccination rollout in Pacific as coverage in some countries to take years

By Jackson Graham

November 22, 2021

Fiji has an adult vaccination rate of 90%
Fiji has an adult vaccination rate of 90%. (AP Photo/Aileen Torres-Bennett)

Vaccination coverage among Pacific nations is vastly uneven, with some populations tipped not to reach basic inoculation for five years, a new report flags. 

It comes as most of the vaccination supply to the region to date has come from Australia. 

Lowy Institute research has modelled dates when fourteen countries across the Pacific could reach key vaccination benchmarks, amid some countries already achieving wide inoculation while others record some of the lowest rates in the world. 

The research shows the Melanesian nations of Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Papua New Guinea will have less than 20% of populations vaccinated by the end of this year. 

Papua New Guinea will have less than a third of its adult population vaccinated by 2026, the study predicts.  

Meanwhile, Fiji has an adult vaccination rate of 90% and the fast rollout of vaccines from the US has benefited the Northern Pacific. 

Lowy Institute research fellow Alexandre Dayant said the research revealed the region was divided. 

“Parts of Melanesia have been hampered by poor health service delivery but more worryingly — misinformation leading to outright vaccine resistance,” Dayant said. 

Australia committed in July to give up to 15 million domestically manufactured vaccines to Pacific Island countries and Timor Leste by mid-2022. 

Additional pledges have also been made by China, the US, New Zealand and India, as well as through the international COVAX project.

Dayant said Fiji was an example of what could be achieved when supply limitations were removed.  

He also pointed to the nation’s vaccination mandates among public servants as key to its success. 

“Through tough measures, including a no-jab, no-job policy in the public service, Fiji is getting ready to re-open its economy to much-needed tourist visitors,” Dayant said.


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