After trailing well behind almost all other developed nations in the race to vaccinate their populations, Australia and New Zealand have made significant strides in recent weeks.
For first doses of a vaccine administered, New Zealand is now ranked 15th and Australia 17th among the 38 wealthy nations that make up the OECD, with 75 and 73 percent, respectively. Portugal currently tops the list with 86 percent of its population fully vaccinated.
Just three weeks ago, New Zealand ranked 20th and Australia 27th. At the time, however, Australia and New Zealand were pushing hard on vaccines and were administering doses faster than all nations except Cuba, Cambodia, and Iran – and it’s paid off.
Current projections show Australia could become one of the most vaccinated countries in the world by the end of the year.
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is already the most vaccinated city in the world.
“We expect to be at around 99 percent of the eligible population fully vaccinated by the end of November. It’s a testament to ACT residents and their willingness to protect themselves, their family, and their community,” said the territory’s chief minister, Andrew Bar earlier this month.
According to Our World in Data, if Australia’s largest state, New South Wales, was a country it would top the OECD list, with 93 percent of the state having received at least one dose and 85 percent being fully vaccinated. This is compared to Portugal’s 88 percent for single dose and 86 percent for full vaccination.
Australia’s efforts have led it to announce that the country would be reopening its international border next month, after more than 18 months in relative isolation. Fully vaccinated Australians will be able to travel overseas and Australian citizens living abroad, residents, and their immediate family members can return without having to quarantine from November 1. A full reopening to international travelers is rumored to follow by as early as Christmas.
New Zealand, after 18 months of avoiding a large outbreak of COVID-19, appears to have finally met its match with the Delta variant. Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city, has been in a harsh lockdown for the last 10 weeks, but cases continued to rise.
With Delta, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern accepted defeat.
“With this outbreak, and Delta, the return to zero is incredibly difficult,” Ardern told a news conference earlier this month. “But that is OK. This is a change in approach we were always going to make over time. Our Delta outbreak has accelerated this transition. Vaccines will support it.”
New Zealand hasn’t yet announced the easing of its hard border closure, but COVID-19 Minister Chris Hipkins confirmed last week that the new rules would be out this week and that the new rules would be in force by Christmas.
“You will see some changes to our [hotel quarantine] settings this year…it will be a progressive series of changes,” he said.