How Puerto Rico became the most highly vaccinated place in America

Almost three-quarters of population and all over-65s are fully vaccinated

Oliver O'Connell
New York
Wednesday 20 October 2021 18:10
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You wouldn’t be alone if when asked where you thought the most-vaccinated place in the US was you assumed it was a relatively rich, liberal, northeastern state, such as Vermont or Connecticut. Maybe Oregon or Washington on the west coast? Perhaps the District of Columbia?

The reality is that it is Puerto Rico. The island commonwealth in the Caribbean has unexpectedly become the Covid-19 pandemic vaccination star of the US and its territories.

In a Twitter thread, Dr Ashish Jha, professor and dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, celebrated the achievement and reflected on how Puerto Rico managed to get so many people fully vaccinated.

He notes that the proportion of the population fully vaccinated in New England is 68.8 per cent in Massachusetts; 69.8 per cent in Connecticut and Rhode Island; and 70.5 per cent in Vermont.

In Puerto Rico, 72 per cent of the population is vaccinated against the virus.

Among older people, those aged over 65, Vermont has an impressive vaccination rate of 96.3 per cent, but Puerto Rico takes first place with 99.9 per cent — essentially everyone in that age group.

Dr Jha says that the vaccine drive on the island has really paid off. Since 1 July when the Delta variant surge began in the US, Vermont had 50 per cent more cases than Puerto Rico.

Today, Puerto Rico has one of the lowest infection rates in America — much lower than most states, Dr Jha notes.

What is impressive about the achievement is that Puerto Rico is relatively poor compared to much of the US and has a large population — more than 21 states.

There are approximately 3.285 million people in Puerto Rico compared to just 624,000 in Vermont.

Puerto Rico leads the way in total Covid-19 vaccine doses administered per 100,000 people as reported to the CDC - 19 October 2021

Dr Jha believes that part of the reason for the success is that vaccines have not been politicised — the two topics have not been intermixed.

There is less attention paid in Puerto Rico to politics in the mainland US, and political parties on the island actively support vaccinations.

Dr Jha says Puerto Rico is “doing a fabulous job vaccinating its people to keep everyone safe” and shows that it is not just wealthier states that can achieve such high levels of vaccination.

Nationwide, 57.1 per cent of the total population, or 66.8 per cent of the over-12s eligible for the vaccine, have been fully vaccinated against Covid-19. For the over 65s the number is 84.4 per cent.

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