As the COVID vaccine rolls out across the globe, one location stands out for vaccinating the highest percentage of its citizens, making it the most vaccinated country in the world.

Portugal has risen to the top and is leading the world in vaccinations, with 81.6% of its residents fully vaccinated against COVID-19, according to Our World in Data, a project developed by the University of Oxford.

But Portugal hasn’t always been a vaccination leader with a population of 10.3 million. At the height of the pandemic, Portugal had the worst COVID outbreak in Europe.

For several months, Portugal had the lowest number of ICU beds per capita and the highest number of new COVID infections per capita across Europe. In late January, Portugal was reporting daily records in COVID-19 deaths.

On Thursday, it reported 1,247 new COVID cases and 10 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The country has rolled past the United Arab Emirates (79.19%) and Malta (81%) as a leader in fully vaccinating its residents, including a push for children aged 12 to 15.

But Portugal lags when it comes to the number of residents who have received at least one shot of the COVID vaccine at 86.9% as the UAE leads with 89.9% of citizens, Our World in Data indicated. Malta comes in third for residents receiving at least one dose of the vaccine at 81% of people inoculated.

In comparison, the U.S. has fully vaccinated 54% of its population, while globally, just 30% of the world is fully vaccinated.

Portugal has seen its COVID infections decrease and has begun lifting most of its strict coronavirus restrictions.

“The vaccination process beat the virus and now we have to start learning how to regain our freedom and our lives,” Vice-Admiral Henrique de Gouveia e Melo, head of the country’s coronavirus task force, said during a school opening ceremony Wednesday, according to Portuguese publication Diario de Notícias.

“That’s what we have to do, of course, with some care. We have to be smart, we can’t be careless either,” he added.

China has already provided more than 700 million doses of vaccine to other countries this year
China has already provided more than 700 million doses of vaccine to other countries this year AFP / STR