How Asia, once lagging behind in vaccination, is restarting vaccination
Then came the Delta variant. Despite their countries being largely locked down, the virus found its way. And when it did, it spread rapidly. In the summer, South Korea battled its worst wave of infections; Indonesia’s hospitals run out of oxygen and beds; And in Thailand, health care workers had to turn patients away.
With cases rising, countries quickly changed their approach to vaccination.
Sydney, Australia announced a lockdown in June after a non-vaccinated limousine driver grabbed a Delta version from a US aircrew. Then, Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who had previously said vaccination was “not a race”, in July called on Australians to “go to sleep” in the country’s vaccination campaign.
He went on to address supply constraints, compounded by slow regulatory approvals. In August, Australia bought one million doses of Pfizer from Poland; This month, Mr Morrison announced the purchase of one million Modern Shots from Europe.
When the Delta outbreak broke out, less than 25 percent of Australians over the age of 16 had received the same shot. In the state of New South Wales, which includes Sydney, 86 percent of the adult population has now received the first dose, and 62 percent of adults have been fully vaccinated. The country expects 80 percent of its population over the age of 16 to be fully vaccinated by early November.
“There was great community leadership – there were people across the political divide who came out to support vaccination,” said Greg Dorr, an infectious disease specialist at the University of New South Wales. “It really helped us change the level of hesitation out there.”
Many governments have used incentives to encourage vaccination.
In South Korea, authorities in August eased restrictions on private gatherings for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to meet in large groups while maintaining strict restrictions for others. Singapore, which has fully vaccinated 82 percent of its population, had previously announced similar measures.
Researchers there have also analyzed pockets of people who refuse to be vaccinated and are trying to persuade them.
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