Covid-19 vaccination of entire country by end of July, government says

Thursday 13 May 2021 | Written by Emmanuel Samoglou | Published in Health, National

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Covid-19 vaccination of entire country by end of July, government says
PHOTO: James Estrin/The New York Times

Cook Islands residents can expect to receive their first dosage of the Covid-19 vaccine next week under a government plan unveiled yesterday.

Frontline workers in Rarotonga will be the first in the country to receive the first dosage of the Pfizer vaccine, followed by the general public.

Aitutaki will be next in line, followed by residents in the remaining outer islands.

The entire rollout is expected to be finished by the end of July.

“Te Marae Ora (Ministry of Health) is finalising roll-out plans that will see our vaccinations get underway from the 18th May, starting with frontline health staff and border workers, then, hotel staff, before we begin with the general public shortly after,” said Prime Minister Mark Brown while announcing the rollout.

“We will be leading the way by asking our MPs and House of Ariki to be vaccinated as an example to our people.” 

The Prime Minister said vaccines are expected to arrive next week aboard an Air New Zealand flight, likely Monday’s arrival based on the Government’s timetable for administering the vaccine.

Vaccinations will take place by appointment-only at the Rarotonga Hospital, on Sanatorium Rd, Pokoinu, and the entire process should last two hours according to Te Marae Ora.

While not mandatory, all residents over the age of 16 years are eligible to receive the Pfizer vaccine, which government says is roughly 95 per cent effective in preventing symptomatic infection of Covid-19.

With an estimated 10,000 eligible residents in Rarotonga, planning is underway to make the process efficient and orderly, PM Brown said.

He said health officials are working with the puna clinics to arrange transportation from villages to the hospital for those wishing to be vaccinated.

It is expected that the entire process will take 10 days.

Delivering the first round of vaccinations in Aitutaki is expected to take three days, and all other islands should be able to be completed in one to two days.

Second doses of the vaccine will be administered three weeks later for all residents, Brown said. 

Te Marae Ora spokesperson Jaewynn McKay said proof-of-vaccination certificates will be provided for residents after they’ve received both dosages of the vaccine.

Also, this week, several officials from NZ’s Immunisation Advisory Centre arrived in Rarotonga to assist with the vaccine rollout programme.

“There are three of them who have arrived for the training of vaccinators and to certify the vaccine fridges,” said McKay.

An additional five vaccinators will be arriving next week to assist with the rollout, she added.

Government has been working closely over the past several months with New Zealand’s Ministry of Health officials to develop the Covid-19 vaccination programme.

PM Brown said support from New Zealand includes vaccine transportation, technical advice, logistics planning and support, workforce training, and the supply of materials such as syringes.

The New Zealand government said it is committed to providing vaccinations for at least 1.2 million people in the Pacific over the coming year.