Govt must reveal Covid-19 vaccine details: Opposition

Tuesday 13 April 2021 | Written by Supplied | Published in Health, National


Govt must reveal Covid-19  vaccine details: Opposition
A Te Marae Ora laboratory staff member opens an ultra-cold freezer to be used for storing Covid-19 vaccines. 21040125

People need reassurance on the Covid-19 vaccine and exactly when it will begin rolling out, says the Opposition party.

The Democratic Party Opposition wants the government to reveal details of what agreement may exist between the Cook Islands and New Zealand regarding the supply of a Covid-19 vaccine to all 17,000 residents here.

Opposition leader Tina Pupuke Browne said while it’s known New Zealand was expected to assume legal and financial liability for the roll-out of vaccines here, “the absence of a commitment to a date when this will happen is concerning”.

“We hear of other Pacific Islands receiving their vaccine and their people being administered the Covid vaccine, so of course we are wanting to know when can we in the Cook Islands expect confirmation of when the same will happen here,” Browne said in a media statement.

“Did we even explore other options of vaccine supply instead of just relying on New Zealand? Pacific island neighbours such as Tonga have gone out and sourced their own supply of vaccines through UNICEF (United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund) – now the vaccine is rolling out in Tonga. Our people are calling for the vaccine to be here as soon as possible.”

Browne added with Prime Minister Mark Brown pushing for two-way New Zealand - Rarotonga travel beginning on May 1st, “…people need reassurance and to know that the vaccine is coming here and exactly when it will begin rolling out. Anything less than absolute transparency with the vaccine supply and roll-out is unacceptable.”

The logistics of distributing the vaccine to the Pa Enua must be thoroughly thought through every step, says the Opposition leader, adding there is no room for mistakes given that the vaccine must be kept stable and in extremely cold storage during transportation.

“New Zealand media has reported experts there believe there is a window of just five days to vaccinate the people once the vaccine is removed from super-cold storage. Five days to vaccinate everyone on Rarotonga and the same time frame on each of the Pa Enua after the chilled vaccine arrives on the respective island,” Browne said.

“According to NZ media, during talks with vaccine manufacturers, to protect the manufacturers the New Zealand government has taken on liability for any problems or possible adverse reactions when vaccinating our people here, and we are grateful for that,’ she said.

“But please don’t leave us in the dark. Tell us exactly when the vaccine roll-out is going to happen. To state that it could happen in May is far too vague, especially with the opening of two-way travel between our countries.”

Browne said she is aware that the country may need the assistance of the Royal New Zealand Air Force to help distribute the vaccines to northern islands – “because time is of the essence the availability of that kind of logistical support from New Zealand will be critical”.

“And as we know, everyone will need to have their second vaccine three weeks later, so knowing when it is going to start is not an unreasonable request to make to our government and the New Zealand government.”