23 July, 2021
This was the final consignment of COVID-19 vaccines, which the ship has delivered at the request of the Ministry of Health, after a consignment was delivered to Tokelau earlier in the week. Tokelau’s three atolls (Nukunonu, Atafu and Fakaofo) and Palmerston Island have now received enough doses of Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines to provide two doses to each eligible person.
With the surrounding coral reef making access to Palmerston Island by boat very difficult without local knowledge, the vaccines were transferred to the Cook Islands Police Boat Te Kukupa’s Zodiac, with their crew able to navigate the channel through the reef and safely transport the vaccines to the waiting officials.
Palmerston Island is one of the most remote atolls in the Cook Islands, at 500km from Rarotonga and just over 3000kms from Auckland. It is only accessible by sea.
HMNZS Wellington Commanding Officer Philip Davies said the mission had been months in the planning because of the combination of the remoteness of the locations and the very specific handling, cold storage and transportation requirements for the vaccines. The opportunity to support and protect the remote communities of Tokelau and Palmerston Island, while challenging, has been a satisfying and proud moment.
“It was gratifying to have completed the mission and to have helped protect the communities of Tokelau and Palmerston Island. Many people join the New Zealand Defence Force to be able to make a difference, and the ship’s crew can be proud of what they’ve achieved here to support these communities.”
The ship will now transit to Rarotonga to take on supplies before returning to New Zealand at the beginning of August.