PUERTO RICO HAS BEEN PLAGUED BY HURRICANES, earthquakes and political turmoil in recent years. But the tiny island has gained a badge of honor that may surprise some: it’s the most vaccinated place in America.
The U.S. territory has fully vaccinated more than 2.3 million residents, amounting to just over 73 percent of its population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The island also has among the lowest COVID-19 infection rates in the U.S.
While some people across the U.S. mainland continue to resist vaccine mandates, Puerto Rico successfully vaccinated a majority of its residents by “putting science before politics,” Daniel Colón-Ramos, a Yale University professor who heads the coalition of scientists advising Puerto Rico’s government on the coronavirus pandemic, tells Newsweek.
“Social distancing, use of masks among children and adults and vaccinations were not as politicized in Puerto Rico as compared with the rest of the U.S.,” he says. “In part, I think this had to do with the trauma that Puerto Rico went through after the hurricane, and shortly after, the earthquakes.”
He adds that although Puerto Rico is “a very politicized society, there was consensus among political leaders who largely agreed that the priority had to be to use science to save lives, and that the success in public health results from strong public policy and individual decisions that affect the collective whole.”
Colón-Ramos says, “We conservatively estimate just the vaccination efforts have saved hundreds of lives.”
Puerto Rico’s success shows that it’s not just “wealthy” New England states that can achieve high vaccination rates, Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, recently wrote on Twitter.
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