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‘Voices of dissent’ follow authorities to public meetings

Saturday 2 October 2021 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Health, National

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‘Voices of dissent’  follow authorities  to public meetings
A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine being administered. Photo: AFP via RNZ

A minority group are still ‘pushing their agenda’ to influence people in decision making as the rollout of Covid-19 vaccinations for children aged 12 to 15 gets underway next week.

Cook Islands Secretary of Health Bob Williams made the observations at a series of public consultation meetings this week.

Williams, accompanied by director of hospital health services Dr Yin Yin May and paediatric registrar Dr Donna Mokoroa have fronted several meetings, while members of the public have questioned them on the validity of the vaccine rollout and made claims it could contribute to harmful long-term health effects.   

The rollout of Covid-19 vaccinations for children aged 12 to 15 will begin in Rarotonga on Friday next week with the same procedure used for the 16 and over vaccination rollout earlier this year. 

“While those of the 11,000 plus people who have received the vaccine are fine with the sessions, there is still a minority group pushing their agenda to influence parents and guardians in their decision making for their own children,” Williams told Cook Islands News yesterday. 

“Of course there is new information about the current Delta variant that our general population may not have access to, so the meetings helped them understand the difference between the Alpha and Delta variants.

“There were questions that required our staff to provide more information as we went through the four consultation meetings,” Williams said.

The National Auditorium echoed with voices of dissent as the first of the consultation meetings was hosted by Te Marae Ora late Monday afternoon.

Those voices continued to be heard during meetings at other venues during the week. 

“The bottom line is people are dying from Covid-19 and evidence has proven that vaccination has helped reduce the hospitalisation and death rate globally,” Williams said.

“Country border settings are changing and it will also be likely for the Cook Islands and travel outside of the Cook Islands or returning back, will not be the same in the immediate future.

“There were some important questions from parents to better inform them to make their decisions.

“The bottom line is vaccination is voluntary.”

Meanwhile, families can register for vaccinations of their children at the Social Centre in Nikao and will then be transported up the hill to the Rarotonga Hospital.

Child minding will be provided at the hospital for those who require it, Williams said.

The vaccinations will be administered over three days starting Friday, October 8.

Vaccination hours are from 8am - 7pm on Friday, 8am – 4pm on Saturday October 9, and on Sunday October 10 from 1pm – 4pm.

“While this vaccination programme is primarily aimed at 12 to 15-year-olds, people who missed out having their second dose in the earlier rollout are encouraged to come and have their second one; and adults who haven’t been vaccinated at all are also welcome to come and join the programme,” Williams added.

While appointments are not required for 12 to 15-year-olds, anyone in the 16 years and above category is encouraged to contact Haumata Hosking on phone 22664 (email: haumata.hosking@cookislands.gov.ck), or Pa Tauakume Pepe also on 22664 (email: pa.tauakume@cookislands.gov.ck) for an appointment.

On Aitutaki, a vaccination consultation meeting is scheduled for Monday, October 11 at 4.30pm at the Araura College hall, with vaccinations starting the next day. Williams said there will be further announcements about a vaccine rollout to the rest of the Pa Enua.