How Corvo Became the First European Territory to Achieve Herd Immunity

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4 min readMar 13, 2021

The Portuguese island of Corvo in the Azores has more than 85% of its population fully vaccinated against COVID-19

Photo by Dreizung on Wikimedia Commons.

Corvo Island’s population started receiving the second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday March 11, and is now the first European territory to achieve herd immunity. The mayor of Corvo, José Manuel Silva, made a statement to the news agency, Lusa, emphasizing the historical relevance of the event:

“We don’t always have to be last in everything. In this case, we are the first.”

The Azores Regional Government decided to include the entire population of Corvo’s island over 16 years in the first phase of the vaccination plan against COVID-19, due to the island’s specificities, which has nearly 400 inhabitants and a health center with only one doctor and two nurses.

The first dose was administered to 322 people on February 17, 18, and 24, equivalent, according to the Regional Health Secretariat of the Azores, to more than 95% of the population living in Corvo over 16 years old and about 85% of the entire population of the island.

Unhindered by adverse weather, so often usual in the Azores’ western group, the second batch of vaccines arrived today in Corvo, in a plane that also carried two nurses from São Miguel island, who are supporting the operation.

Most of the population will receive the second dose no later than Friday, 12 March. Still, the process will only be concluded on Wednesday of next week with the vaccination of the last 16 inhabitants.

António Salgado, the island’s m.D, admitted to Lusa that the inhabitants are thrilled, and there is “an atmosphere of celebration in Corvo, from now on, we feel safe.”

Doctor Salgado also emphasized that “Corvo was already a safe island because of its isolation and a certain control maintained over the infection. Still, from now on, it is a redoubled confidence and a redoubled sense of security, both for us health professionals and also for the population.”

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the island has only registered one case of infection by the new coronavirus, diagnosed in January during a screening of travelers. The patient was always asymptomatic and did not transmit the virus to other people, but the case contributed to convincing the most undecided to join the vaccination.

“At the end of this month,” Corvo should achieve herd immunity, added António Salgado, assuring, however, that the island’s population will not “let its guard down,” although it will “certainly live an even more normal life.”

Corvo was, in fact, one of the rare places in the world that “saw the storm from afar, saw things passing in the distance. We live a life very close to normal”, doctor Salgado told Lusa.

The town mayor added: “It doesn’t mean that it eliminates all the recommendations of the Regional Health Authority, but obviously, it is a feeling of some comfort and some psychological relief, taking into account the resources we have. In a more serious case of COVID, we are five, six, seven hours away from a hospital, and this causes, obviously, some concern in people.”

The mayor is convinced that the vaccination of the entire population of the island, including the less vulnerable, was a “good decision,” considering the scarcity of resources for health care available on the island.

“People, I won’t say they were panicking, but they were quite concerned exactly because they realized that if the virus spread, it could be very complicated, I would even say chaotic.”

Final Thoughts

One year ago, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a pandemic. According to The New York Times, the reckoning is overwhelming, with more than 118 million cases of Covid-19 reported worldwide and more than 2.6 million deaths. The good news is that 316 million vaccine doses have been administered so far.

Last Friday, Corvo became a beacon of hope in the middle of the Atlantic ocean leading the way to a world free from the COVID-19 pandemic threat. May it shine brightly into the future.

Disclaimer: This article is for informational and entertainment purposes only. It only depicts my personal experience and should not be considered Health Advice. Please report to your local health authority for accurate and official guidance.

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