Covid-19: How some of the world’s most remote islands achieved the best vaccination rates

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Excerpt from Stuff.co.nz

The Cook Islands, Niue and Tokelau have some of the highest vaccination rates against Covid-19 in the world. But getting the vaccines to people on such isolated islands wasn’t easy. Brittany Keogh spoke to some of those who helped ensure the roll-outs went smoothly.

Wearing army fatigues, a motorbike helmet and latex gloves, a member of the New Zealand Defence Force carefully transferred a blue cardboard box labelled “Palmerston” from the HMNZS Wellington onto a waiting zodiac inflatable.

Once the package was safely onboard, the little boat motored across the translucent water for the final stretch to take its contents to their destination.

This was no ordinary contactless delivery. Inside the box were vials of the Pfizer vaccine which would be administered to the 57 residents of Palmerston Island, a coral atoll about 500 kilometres northwest of the largest of the Cook Islands, Rarotonga.

Since that day in late July, the immunisation rollout against Covid-19 in the Cook Islands has become one of the most successful in the world – 96 per cent of the population aged 16-plus are now fully vaccinated.

The country is one of several Pacific Island nations that have some of the best coverage rates internationally.

Niue officials report that 97 per cent of its eligible population have had two Pfizer shots.

Figures from Tokelau are even higher – with 99 per cent of those 16 and older fully immunised against Covid-19.

But achieving that was no easy feat.

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