How Asia, once lagging behind in immunization, is boosting immunizations

Then came the Delta variant. Despite keeping their countries largely closed, the virus has found its way. And when it did, it spread quickly. In the summer, South Korea battled its worst wave of infections; hospitals in Indonesia ran out of oxygen and beds; and in Thailand, health workers have had to turn away patients.

With the increase in cases, countries quickly changed their approach to immunization.

Sydney, Australia, announced a lockdown in June after an unvaccinated limousine driver caught the Delta variant from an American crew. Then Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who previously said vaccination “is not a race,” in July called on Australians to “go for gold” in the country’s vaccination campaign.

It has moved to overcome a supply shortage, made worse by the slow pace of regulatory approval. In August, Australia bought one million doses of Pfizer from Poland; This month, Mr. Morrison announced the purchase of one million Moderna shots in Europe.

When the Delta epidemic emerged, less than 25% of Australians over the age of 16 had received a single injection. In the state of New South Wales, which includes Sydney, 86 percent of the adult population has now received a first dose and 62 percent of adults are fully vaccinated. The country expects to fully immunize 80 percent of its population over the age of 16 by early November.

“There was great community leadership – there were people from all political walks of life who came out to support immunization,” said Greg Dore, infectious disease expert at the University of New South Wales. “It really helped us overcome a level of reluctance that was there. “

Many governments have used incentives to encourage vaccinations.

In South Korea, authorities in August eased restrictions on private gatherings for fully vaccinated people, allowing them to meet in larger groups while maintaining tighter restrictions for others. Singapore, which has fully immunized 82 percent of its population, has already announced similar measures.

The researchers also analyzed the pockets of people who refuse to be vaccinated and try to persuade them.

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