Kar Kar Island drops suddenly out of the clouds and spills into the sea along Papua New Guinea’s northeastern coast. An hour flight from the capital, Port Moresby, and a two-hour speedboat ride from the nearest town, its 150,000 inhabitants thought little of COVID-19 when news of the pandemic first arrived.
Misinformation spread faster than the virus, so by the time the first COVID-19 cases were reported on Kar Kar, the majority of residents were adamantly against receiving the vaccine.
“We heard the vaccine will kill you — not the virus,” said Yvonne Babu, a local village resident. “I thought, this is all just the big man’s way of making more money.”
As word of mouth carried news of the vaccine’s availability across the island, many Kar Kar residents had already made up their minds.
A vocal set of community members began disrupting vaccination clinics and tearing down informational posters. Vaccinators grew fearful of going out into communities and started to offer the jab only at the local clinic.