OPINION: Vaccination ‘should not be a difficult choice’

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Get vaccinated. Protect yourself, your family and all those around you. You know it’s the right thing to do, writes Prime Minister Mark Brown.

Monday we welcomed our first planeload of tourists in more than a year.

It was a sight I have been looking forward to seeing for quite some time now.

That same plane also delivered our first batch of Covid-19 vaccine, allowing us to begin the vital process of vaccinating our people against the virus that has changed the world around us so completely.

Right now, as you read these words, Te Marae Ora health officials are supervising our first full day of vaccinations at Rarotonga Hospital.

First to be vaccinated will be our frontline health workers and border staff, followed by Rarotonga-based accommodation staff.

As an example to our people, the country’s Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament, House of Ariki representatives and other community leaders will also be vaccinated this week.

Vaccination for members of the general public will then be rolled out from May 22 onwards.

An untold number of people, both here in the Cook Islands and also in New Zealand have been working incredibly hard to make this happen for months now.

The fact that we have been able to obtain all the vaccine we need and set up the systems required to ensure the vaccination process can be carried out as quickly and safely as possible is a testament to their efforts.

The Pfizer vaccine we are using is the same one that has already been given to around 300,000 New Zealanders so far. It has been shown to be 95 per cent effective against Covid-19 once you have received both doses, which must be spaced at least three weeks apart.

We have secured sufficient vaccine stocks to vaccinate the entire eligible population of the Cook Islands – that is, everyone aged 16 and over.

For those who are unsure, the Pfizer vaccine will not give you Covid-19. Unlike the vaccinations our children receive for things like measles and mumps, it is not what they call a live vaccine – it contains no version of the Covid-19 virus itself.

Instead, it works by triggering your immune system to produce antibodies and blood cells that work against the Covid-19 virus.

The vaccine is free, it is effective, it will save lives. Everything has been put in place to ensure that our entire eligible population, from Rarotonga to Aitutaki and all of the Pa Enua, will be vaccinated safely and in as short a timeframe as is logistically possible.

You do not have to make an appointment – a Te Marae Ora representative will contact you to schedule a day and time for you to receive the vaccine. To help with this process you can ensure your contact details are up to date by calling 22664 during business hours.

Your government is ready for this – the rest is up to you.

While it is not compulsory, I cannot stress enough how important it is that everyone living here in the Cook Islands aged 16 and over makes use of this vaccine.

By getting vaccinated you are not just protecting yourself, you are protecting all those around you – your children and other loved ones, extended family members, friends, co-workers and all those you come into contact with each day.

We have all had to make some tough decisions this past year – I know the challenges we’ve all faced, the hard work, the sacrifices, the difficult choices.

But your decision to be vaccinated against Covid-19 should not be a difficult choice. It just makes sense.

Get vaccinated. Protect yourself, your family and all those around you. You know it’s the right thing to do

SOURCE: COOK ISLANDS NEWS/PACNEWS