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.
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
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
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.
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.