John Kiria, right, entertain the crowd at the Kuki Airani Vaccination Drive Through Centre in Mangere this week. BYRON BROWN/21092444
A ‘Kuki Airani Vaccination Drive Through Centre’ was organised and held at the Atiu Hall in Mangere for Cook Islanders including those stranded in New Zealand this week.
Close to 500 Cook Islanders, including
some who are stranded in Auckland, took advantage of the vaccination drive in
Mangere this week.
The organisers of the vaccination drive
are aiming to ultimately have 1000 people receive the Pfizer jab to protect
themselves from the Covid-19.
Cook Islanders came armed with umbrellas
as it was a wet week in Auckland and their face masks branded with the Cook
Islands flag across their faces.
In regular competitive Cook Islands
spirit, the islands and villages of those who received the jabs were recorded
to see which island or village has the highest vaccination rate.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden also
attended the initiative over Zoom to show community support.
John Kiria, a Pacific liaison
officer and cultural advisor working in New Zealand and helping out with the
vaccination drive, says although the Pasifika population in New Zealand is very large, the number of Pasifika
people getting vaccinated has been noticeably low.
Because of this, Pasifika
communities including the Cook Islands and Niue have decided to come out with
pop-up vaccination drive-throughs such as the one held in Mangere this week.
explaining the reason behind the Kuki Airani Vaccination
Drive Through Centre initiative,Kiria said Cook
Islanders felt more comfortable to come forward and receive the vaccine if
surrounded by their own people.
is to encourage our own people, especially those with language barriers who
might feel insecure going somewhere they don’t feel comfortable. With this at
least coming here they are familiar even with the doctors and Cook Islanders
volumes of people were seen coming through since the first day of the drive,
which Kiria said was great to see.
speaking with many Cook Islanders, he said that there were still a wide range
of people with different thoughts and opinions regarding the vaccine, including
Former Secretary for Te Marae Ora Cook Islands Ministry of Health Dr Josephine Aumea Herman, middle, with two young Cook Islanders holding the Cook Islands flag at the Kuki Airani Vaccination Drive Through Centre in Mangere this week. BYRON BROWN/21092440
is not for us to push them; we don’t want to be mean or create quarrels between
families because of different beliefs. We just want to encourage everyone it
(the vaccine) is here – take it or leave it.”
Nio, a Rarotonga-based dentist who travelled to New Zealand for a bereavement, was
among volunteers who helped run the vaccination drive.
have been here for almost two months. My family is back in Raro, so I am eager
to go back whenever it’s possible. Being in lockdown is not a very good
feeling. I feel that everyone is feeling the same, we all can’t wait to return
home to their loved ones,” Nio said.
said the vaccination drive was very excellent idea and well run.
great to see it’s your own people here doing something positive with that being
to vaccinate everyone to be protected against the virus in this critical time.”
said he was humbled with the opportunity to help out as a volunteer for such a
always been my passion to support any work regarding the health of the Cook
Islands people. I am always supportive of any initiative that will bring our
people together and help them with their health concerns,” he said.
Wilson, Team Cook Islands chef de mission, and Temaeva Mateariki were two other
Cook Islanders volunteering and helping out, while waiting in Auckland for the
greenlight to return home.
said it was great to see so many Cook Islanders coming to get vaccinated “as it
is the only way that they can get home”.
are waiting patiently for Uncle Mark (Prime Minister Mark Brown) to let us come
home. It would be good to be able to go soon,” said Wilson.
Mateariki added: “Please get the jab, that’s the only way we can get back home.”