Pfizer vaccine roll-out begins in Covid-free Tokelau
21 July, 2021, 3:42 pm
Tokelau’s Nukunonu atoll began its vaccination process today after receiving its delivery of the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on Monday, courtesy of the New Zealand Navy Patrol Vessel HMNZS Wellington.
The Tokelau atolls’ population was 1499 in the 2016 Census. For Nukunonu, which is home to approximately 420 people, vaccinations started today for the first eligibility group: including people aged 16 and over, with an exemption for pregnant women. This group represents about 300 people out of the entire population.
The vaccination programme has been in the works since the beginning of 2021. One-hundred and twenty vials of Pfizer vaccine, sufficient to vaccinate 720 people, arrived on 19 July after a six day journey from New Zealand aboard the HMNZS Wellington.
Nukunonu Faipule and Minister of Health, Siopili Perez, welcomed the HMNZS Wellington’s arrival with a gesture of gratitude for New Zealand’s support in obtaining the vaccine:
“Thank you, first of all, to the Government of New Zealand, her (continuous) support and commitment to Tokelau is living testimony to the long lasting relationship (that) the two countries hold very dear.”
Perez passed on a special thank you to Ross Ardern, the Administrator of Tokelau. Ardern has been involved with the vaccination project from its inception.
New Zealand and Tokelau share close political ties. The Tokelau atolls, which lie midway between Hawaii and New Zealand, have been a New Zealand territory since 1925.
As the HMNZS Wellington arrived Deputy Director of Public Health, Alapati Tavite, and National General Manager, Aukusitino Vitale were the first at Nukunonu wharf:
“We have received all the vials and consumables that were requested…this has been a dream for the people of Nukunonu and Tokelau as a whole,” Tavite said.
The HMNZS Wellington docked in Nukunonu around 12.30pm on Monday, 19 July. Due to poor weather conditions the vaccine and consumables for the vaccination were transported by dinghy rather than helicopter.
Navy personnel transporting the vaccine were careful to maintain a safe distance from Tokelau officials and locals, who were on the wharf, and took measures to reduce any possibility of Covid-19 transmission.