The United States is sending vaccines to three Pacific island nations, part of more than $103 million in aid to help the countries fight COVID-19 and begin the path to economic recovery.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in late 2020 and early 2021 delivered thousands of doses of U.S. producer Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine to Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands.
“We are deeply appreciative,” David Panuelo, president of the Federated States of Micronesia, told U.S. officials in a December meeting in advance of receiving the vaccines. “Know that we are committed to our relationship for a free and open Indo-Pacific region, and that we look forward to getting our lives back to normal.”
The COVID-19 assistance reflects the United States’ unique and long-standing relationships with the three countries. Through bilateral agreements called Compacts of Free Association, the United States enjoys special relationships with the Marshall Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau, including collaboration on issues such as security, disaster recovery and economic development.
U.S. support in fighting COVID-19 is not part of the compacts but rather reflects the United States’ enduring relationship with the three countries.
Palau receives initial batch of Moderna COVID-19 vaccines from Operation Warp Speed/US CDC on January 2, 2021. Vaccine administration to commence on January 3, 2021. pic.twitter.com/O4hgRaMkIF
— Ministry of Health – Republic of Palau (@MOHPalau) January 1, 2021
By January 29, Palau had received more than 6,000 doses of the vaccine and had vaccinated more than 3,000 people, according to Radio New Zealand. Mass vaccination campaigns are underway in the Marshall Islands and across the Federated States of Micronesia.
During an online event with the U.S. Embassy in Kolonia, Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden, told U.S. Ambassador Carmen Cantor that achieving “herd immunity would require anywhere from 70% to 85% of the people vaccinated.” He also said that Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine is safe and highly effective.
“It is a great thing the U.S. government is doing for us,” Jack Niedenthal, health secretary for the Marshall Islands, told Radio New Zealand, noting that the country’s residents are receiving vaccines at the same time as people in the United States. “This is a great day for all of us.”