On Monday morning, the elders of Nukunonu Atoll in Tokelau on the pier wore white clothes, sang songs and raised a flag saying “Welcome”.
In the distance, a small inflatable boat went to them. new Zealand A defender dressed in full protective equipment and 12 precious boxes. The box contained more than 700 Pfizer vaccines, enough to cover the 346 inhabitants of Nukunonu Island to be vaccinated.
“I am relieved and overjoyed, which is also overwhelming,” said Auxitino Vitale, chairman of Tokelau’s National Covid Committee. He has led the community’s efforts to secure vaccines since March 2020. For him, the arrival of the first box of vaccine meant that he could now sleep peacefully.
“Honestly, I haven’t slept well since March. It was the culmination of efforts between the New Zealand Government, the NZ Immunological Advisory Center, the United Nations agencies, our team on the ground in the Tokelau Islands, and more. I finally felt peace when the ship approached, “he said from his office in Tokelau.
The Tokelau Islands are a New Zealand Dependent, about 3,500 km north of Auckland, with a population of about 1,500.
It is one of the most inaccessible atolls in the world. If there are no runways and the coastal waters are shallow, the atoll can only be reached by dinghy, canoe, or small raft.
Prior to Covid, visitors to the Tokelau Islands had to fly to Samoa and then board a boat to the Tokelau Islands.
To safely deliver the vaccine to Tokelau, New Zealand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Ministry of Health, Defense Forces and the Government of Tokelau have endeavored to find routes and transportation methods that do not compromise the cold chain.
As a result, New Zealand Defense Force HMNZS Wellington, with a crew of 76, shipped the vaccine to the open ocean outside the coral reefs near the island. The helicopter was intended to carry boxes from the ship, but bad weather prevented it from taking off from the aircraft carrier, and instead small rigid inflatable boats were deployed on the Fakaofo, Nukunonu, and Atafu atolls.
Tokelau Islands Some parts of the world staying Covid-free The whole pandemic. The border has been closed since March 2020. This meant that non-contact delivery had to be monitored during the vaccine drop-off.
Upon returning to New Zealand, the health care support team was still nervous about the weather and confirmed that the vaccine was maintaining the proper temperature.
Rosa Toloa, director of health at Tokelau, contacted the hospital staff and to ensure equipment readiness.
“We have no access to the air, so the challenge was to get the vaccine to Tokelau and maintain the proper temperature of the vaccine from New Zealand to Tokelau to ensure the effectiveness of the vaccine,” she said.
But even preparing for vaccine deployment faced challenges. The Tokelau Islands medical department, which consists of three doctors (one in each atoll) and 36 nurses, needed to be trained to administer the vaccine via Zoom. This was almost impossible due to poor internet connection.
“We needed to train vaccinations for new vaccines. There is a lot of new information about vaccines that needs to be well aware and well prepared,” says Toloa. “The challenge was to train nurses and refresh vaccinated people over a very difficult mobile internet network, but we managed to do that and speed up nurses. It took months of preparation for everyone. “
With well-prepared staff, well-equipped hospitals, and an ambitious population, Tokelau’s Ministry of Health succeeded in administering more than 60% of the initial dose in the first two days of deployment.
When Vitale, chairman of Tokelau’s National Covid Committee, felt a pinch of his first dose on Monday, his relief was not only for himself but also for his small island community.
“This is a blessing and gives us the peace of mind and confidence that our people will be protected from the devastation of Covid-19 and that we as cultures and people may be lost. I feel safe. “
Inflatable Dinghy and Zoom Medical Training: How Far Pacific Atolls Get Pfizer | Vaccines and Immunization
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