Vaccinations are the armour against Covid-19: PM Brown

Tuesday 5 October 2021 | Written by Supplied | Published in Opinion

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Vaccinations are the armour against Covid-19: PM Brown
Prime Minister Mark Brown receiving his first dose of the Pfizer Covid-19 Vaccine in May. 21052828

All the information that our health experts and professionals at Te Marae Ora have to hand tells us that the Pfizer vaccine is just as safe for our 12–15-year-olds as it is for adults, writes Prime Minister Mark Brown.

Kia Orana,

I feel certain I have started this column with these words before, but the past fortnight really has been a busy time for government.

With regard to our management of the Covid-19 pandemic, there is a lot going on that we all need to come to grips with and I know many of you have various concerns. I will do my best to address some of those concerns here today.

As most of you already know, our first group of Cook Islanders and residents who have been stranded in New Zealand for seven weeks now will be returning home tomorrow.

These people are our loved ones who have for the last few weeks been sheltering in Alert Level 2 regions of New Zealand. They will be departing from Christchurch and upon arrival in Rarotonga will head directly to the Edgewater Resort, where they will undergo at least seven days in Managed Isolation Quarantine (MIQ), with the requirement that they return a negative test result for Covid-19 on day one and day five of their stay.

Then, next week on October 14, a second repatriation flight is currently planned to return those of our loved ones from Auckland. These people are currently self-isolating and will also go directly to the Edgewater Resort on arrival – where, as an added precaution they will undergo at least 14 days of MIQ, with additional Covid-19 testing required.

Both groups will undergo Covid-19 tests before departure, as well as a health screening test at the airport before boarding.

Make no mistake, to be able to bring all our people safely home is a tremendous achievement, and I for one will feel a lot better once they have all returned home. This required all hands-on deck from our TMO (Health) staff, MFAI (Foreign Affairs and Immigration) officials including our Wellington and Auckland missions, MFEM (Finance and Economic Management) staff and the Crown Law team who all make up our Border Easement Taskforce (BET). It is no easy task coordinating each agency as well as liaising with Air New Zealand and the New Zealand Ministry of Health and our very own Edgewater Resort to have everything in place for our people.

Throughout the entire duration of this pandemic, the health and safety of our people has always been of paramount importance to myself and my government – even as we also consider the economic needs of our country as a whole.

Our Covid-free status gives us an almost unique position in the world today, and that is not something we will ever give up lightly.

To that end, as we look out at the experiences of other countries across the globe, I think we can all take heart that the international vaccination rollout currently underway is doing its job and preventing people from getting ill or being hospitalised.

Take Singapore for instance, an island nation like ourselves, and with a population not much more than that of New Zealand.

While unable to keep Covid-19 out altogether, as we have, with 82 per cent of their population over 12 now fully vaccinated, 98 per cent of their new cases are either asymptomatic or exhibit only mild symptoms.

Closer to home, in New Zealand, their strategy is also very much centred around vaccination. The obvious example of this is the recent announcement that soon only vaccinated non-citizens will be able to travel to New Zealand, with Air New Zealand also confirming that from February next year all of their international passengers aged 18 years and over will require either proof of vaccination or a medical exemption before they will be allowed to board.

Vaccination for inbound visitors over 12 years of age is also something our government has recently announced.

In the latest news from New Zealand, the government has decided not to reduce the alert levels in place at the moment. However although Auckland will remain in level three, there will be a slight lifting of restrictions. Prime Minister (Jacinda) Adern has also outlined further steps to free up restrictions in Auckland in a staged process depending on how management of the present outbreak develops.

One compelling statistic to come out of analysis of the current cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, is that of the 1357 people who contracted the virus in the current, ‘August’ outbreak, only 3 per cent were fully vaccinated, so 97 per cent of positive cases were people who had not vaccinated. Overwhelming evidence that the vaccine is a powerful tool against Covid-19.

We will continue to monitor the situation in Aotearoa.

With regard to our own population, as I said last week, vaccinations are the armour that will protect us all from Covid-19.

And the fact is that this is just as true for our children as it is for the rest of us.

So, while I understand that there is still some uncertainty out there around the vaccination rollout set to commence on Friday for our 12–15-year-olds, I would like to reiterate that your government is taking these steps with the best medical advice and to ensure that we have the health and safety of all our children at heart.

All the information that our health experts and professionals at Te Marae Ora have to hand tells us that the Pfizer vaccine is just as safe for our 12–15-year-olds as it is for adults. It’s that simple. And it is voluntary. I am so glad that most of our people have chosen to be vaccinated to prevent serious illness or death from Covid.

Even with that in mind, I can still appreciate however that for many this may be a difficult decision – as big decisions involving our children often are. But please know that the health and safety of all of our people, young and old, has always been this government’s top priority.

Thank you for taking the time to read my words here today. It is thanks to each and every one of us that all of us Cook Islands people continue to enjoy a lifestyle almost unheard of in the world as we now know it; with all the many benefits that our Covid-free status affords us. May God continue to bless us all.

Kia Manuia.