The tiny cluster of islands known as the Republic of Palau is one of the few places on Earth entirely free from COVID-19.
Hoping to maintain that status, it could be one of the first countries to be entirely vaccinated against the deadly disease.

The islands are home to around 18,000 people and received its first shipment of the vaccine on Saturday.

The vaccine has been developed by US pharmaceutical company Moderna, with vaccinations starting the very next day.

Health care workers, key officials and vulnerable groups were among the first to receive the vaccine, with the first shipment including 2,800 doses.

The vaccine will be administered in two shots, 28 days apart.

Palau has not recorded a single COVID-19 case or virus related death, according to the World Health Organisation.

The country’s Incident Commander of the Ministery of Health Ritter Udui spoke about receiving vaccines from the United States mass COVID-19 vaccination program known as Operation Warp Speed.

The islands are an independent nation but have a free association with Washington.

“We are lucky to be in a position where we have access to vaccines through OWS, and our small size makes it easier for us to roll out the program,” Udui said.

“It’s not compulsory to receive the vaccine, so our goal is to vaccinate about 80 per cent of the population.

“We hope to achieve herd immunity (through the vaccination program).”

Sylvia Osarch, 60, was the first person to receive the vaccination.

“I felt excited to set an example for my community,” she said.

“I want to tell the community that I took the vaccine to protect them.

“So when it is their turn to take it, please take it to protect us, the healthcare providers.”

This article originally appeared on Over60.