Tokelau, one of the most inaccessible atolls in the world, can only be reached by small boat, but received boxes of vaccine this week. It's one of the few places in the world that has stayed Covid-free throughout the pandemic.
The elders of Nukunonu atoll in Tokelau at the wharf on Monday morning, dressed in white and singing songs, held a banner that said: “Welcome”.
In the distance, a small inflatable boat made its way to them carrying a New Zealand defence officer dressed in full protective gear and 12 precious boxes. Inside the boxes were just over 700 doses of Pfizer vaccine, enough to cover the 346 residents of Nukunono who are eligible for the vaccine.
“I am relieved and elated. It is overwhelming as well,” said Aukusitino Vitale, the chair of the Tokelau national Covid committee. He had spearheaded the community’s efforts to secure the vaccines since March 2020, and for him, the arrival of the first boxes of the vaccine meant he could now sleep easy.
“To be honest with you, I had not slept well since March, this was a culmination of efforts between the New Zealand government, NZ Immunisation Advisory Centre, UN agencies and our own team on the ground in Tokelau, and so on Sunday morning, when the ship was close, I finally felt at peace,” he said from his office in Tokelau.
Tokelau is a dependent territory of New Zealand about 3,500km north of Auckland with a population of about 1,500.It is one of the most inaccessible atolls in the world. Without an airstrip and with shallow coastal waters, the atolls can only be reached by dinghies, canoes or small rafts.
Tokelau is one of the few places in the world that has stayed Covid-free throughout the pandemic. Its borders have been closed since March 2020, which meant that during the drop off of the vaccines, a contactless delivery had to be observed.