The Ministry of Health is calling on expatriate workers to take advantage of free MMR vaccines now provided at the Public Health office in Tupapa – or risk losing their work permits.
The MMR vaccine is an injection against measles, mumps and rubella and takes two weeks to work from the time it’s injected.
Te Marae Ora’s initiative comes after they received 3,000 additional vaccines during the holiday period, from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
Last year measles outbreaks were declared in Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and the United Nations Children's Fund delivered vaccines to these countries.
According to UNICEF they have worked with the governments of Vanuatu, Solomon Islands, Kiribati, Cook Islands, Niue, Marshall Islands and the Federated States of Micronesia to run measles immunisation campaigns.
Cook Islands public health director Dr Tereapii Uka said the vaccines were offered to Cook Islanders and expatriate workers who had not been vaccinated, at a cost of $5 and $10 per shot.
He said expat workers should not piggyback on the herd immunity of Cook Islanders: “It’s only fair to say that everybody should be vaccinated, or it is unfair to those who have been vaccinated.”
They were determined to avoid any cases of measles here.
Dr Uka said the public health team was offering immunisations at the Tupapa clinic, and some were also going out to resorts or private businesses to deliver the vaccine to staff.
This week the team were at Raro Cars, ANZ bank and the Edgewater Resort. “We are urgently asking people to come in, or if not, we can go to their work places.”
Dr Uka said in the case of expat workers, the ministry does not know if the workers have been immunised unless a medical record is provided.
Moreover, the vaccination certificate will be of importance when expat workers have to renew their work permits.
Dr Uka confirmed that the Ministry of Health would be looking into these records as they work closely with the Ministry of Immigration when renewing work permits and when reviewing medical records for new expat workers.
“We have started looking into this and there are other things we need to incorporate into the immigration form apart from the immunisation status of all people coming into the Cook Islands.
“We can just see what’s happening in other Pacific Islands and countries like New Zealand and Australia, people are travelling and we can’t stop people from travelling so we just have to be prepared and making sure every body is well looked after in terms of vaccination.”
If people are showing symptoms, they should not go into the hospital and risk infecting others, but instead phone the hospital or public health, Dr Uka added. Symptoms include body aches, fever, tiredness, conjunctivitis, runny nose, red eyes, and rashes starting behind the eyes and onto the limbs and hands and legs.
He said the health team would advise what to do as this would help prevent the virus from spreading in the hospital.
To make an appointment for the MMR jab, phone the public health nurses on 29110.