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
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
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
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.”