Puerto Rico leads all states and U.S. territories in Covid-19 prevention and vaccination rates among adults and children.
The White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs first announced the milestone last Monday, citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showing that Puerto Rico has the highest rate of total Covid-19 vaccine doses administered, with 155,266 doses having been administered per 100,000 people of the total population.
As of Tuesday, 73.3 percent of Puerto Rico’s 3.2 million residents were fully vaccinated, according to NBC News’ vaccination tracker. The percentage surpasses those of Vermont and Guam, where 70.9 percent and 72.7 percent of the respective populations have been immunized.
Puerto Rico also leads in Covid-19 vaccination rates among children ages 12-17. According to CDC data analyzed by NBC News, 91 percent of Puerto Rican children in this age group have received at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine.
In total, Puerto Rico has administered more than 4.9 million vaccine doses, according to the CDC.
People living in Puerto Rico avoided overwhelming their already fragile health care system during the coronavirus pandemic, mainly because of extraordinary measures the local government put in place early on — and people’s willingness to comply with them.
Despite having had a rough start in its efforts to combat the pandemic with the lowest per-capita testing rate compared to any state and no islandwide contact tracing system, Puerto Rico was among the first U.S. jurisdictions to mandate masks, alongside New Jersey.
Puerto Rico also implemented the longest pandemic-related curfew of any U.S. jurisdiction, as well as on-and-off lockdowns, among other restrictions that served to prevent the spread of Covid-19.
So far, community spread in 49 of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities or towns remains moderate, according to the CDC, while 23 towns report low community transmission rates. The towns of Barranquitas, Santa Isabel, Orocovis, Comerío, Vega Baja and Guayanilla are the only ones reporting high or substantial community transmission rates.
Daniel Colón-Ramos, a professor of cellular neuroscience at Yale University who was president of Puerto Rico’s Scientific Coalition advising Gov. Pedro Pierluisi about the island’s Covid-19 response, has said this year that the island's recent experiences may have contributed to Puerto Ricans' taking Covid-19 restrictions seriously.
Hurricane Maria killed at least 2,975 people in Puerto Rica in 2017, making it one of the deadliest U.S.-based natural disasters in 100 years. It dealt a serious blow to the island's health facilities.
“I do not wish those tragedies on my people, but if they had not happened, I wonder if the tragedy of the pandemic would have been greater,” Colón-Ramos had stated. “Because if not, the people would not have taken it seriously, and the closure of the country would have been protested.”
Since the start of the pandemic, at least 151,440 Covid-19 cases have been confirmed in Puerto Rico, according to the local Health Department. The virus has killed at least 3,223 people on the island.