FAQ

Why am I being offered a COVID-19 vaccination?

Getting a COVID-19 vaccine is an important step you can take to protect yourself, your family and community from the effects of the virus. It’s one way we can fight the COVID-19 pandemic and protect our welfare and wellbeing. By having the vaccine you’ll be playing your part to protect us all.

The free and voluntary COVID-19 vaccine will help protect and safeguard the people of the Cook Islands. It will save lives.

What COVID-19 vaccine is available in the Cook Islands?

The Pfizer vaccine will be rolled out across the whole of the Cook Islands.

The Pfizer vaccine will not give you COVID-19. It does not contain any live virus, or dead or deactivated virus. It works by triggering your immune system to produce antibodies and blood cells that work against the COVID-19 virus.

When will we begin the COVID-19 vaccine rollout?
The COVID-19 vaccination rollout began on 18th May 2021. With the support of the New Zealand Government, we have managed to secure sufficient Pfizer vaccines to provide full coverage for all our eligible population. A Te Marae Ora representative will make contact with each eligible person in the Cook Islands to arrange a date and time for an appointment.
Who is eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine in the Cook Islands?

Everyone in the Cook Islands at the time of the vaccine roll out who is registered in the Ministry of Health patient database is eligible to receive the vaccine, regardless of your residency or permit status. You must also be aged 16 years or older on vaccination day.

Where will I go to get my COVID-19 vaccine?

In Rarotonga, all vaccinations are done at the Rarotonga Hospital in Nikao.
In the Pa Enua, the vaccine will be administered at a designated Health Centre.

If there are any changes, these will be communicated by Te Marae Ora.

Why have the Cook Islands chosen the Pfizer vaccine?

The decision to make Pfizer our primary vaccine provider includes:

  • it's shown to be approximately 95% effective against symptomatic COVID-19, seven days after receiving two doses
  • It is also being rolled out across New Zealand with over 87,000 people completed both doses at 5 May 2021
  • It is the vaccine that has been made available to us by New Zealand
  • all residents will have the chance to access the same vaccine
What is the process of getting the Pfizer vaccine?
  1. A TMO representative will call you to arrange your vaccination appointment.
  2. You will need to agree to be vaccinated.
  3. Then the healthcare worker will inject the vaccine into your arm.
  4. You’ll need to stay for at least 20 minutes after so a healthcare worker can check you’re ok.
  5. Once the healthcare worker says you’re fine, you can leave and carry on with your day.
  6. You will be asked to get your second dose of the vaccine at least 21 days later.
  7. You get your best protection against COVID-19 after 2 doses of the vaccine.
  8. If you have side effects or feel unwell after your vaccination, speak with your health professional, or call Tupapa Outpatients 20066.
Do I need to register for an appointment to get the vaccine?
No. If Te Marae Ora (TMO) representative has not already called you to arrange an appointment, and you would still like to receive the vaccine, go to the Nikao Social Centre to register.
Who will get vaccinated first?

The first immunisations will be given out to those working at the frontline, which includes the Vaccinators, Border and TMO workers. These are workers who undergo mandatory COVID-19 testing as part of their work. These groups include: TMO, Police, Airport, Seaport, Customs/Immigration officials, Agriculture, SQ facility workers. Household contacts of front line workers will also be vaccinated as part of the initial roll-out, after TMO and border workers have had their first dose. This will be followed by the General Public. TMO will contact you to schedule your appointment.

How many doses will I need to be completely vaccinated?

You’ll need two doses. The second dose is given at least three weeks later (21 or 24 days apart). It’s very important you get your second dose, you have your best protection (95%) once you have both doses.

Will I need to pay to get vaccinated?

COVID-19 vaccinations will be free of charge.

Will children under the age of 16 be able to get the vaccine?

Medsafe has not registered a COVID-19 vaccine for use in children under the age of 16 as there is no information on the effect of the vaccine in younger age groups. Further research with vaccine trials enrolling children is underway overseas.

Who should not get vaccinated?

The vaccine is not recommended for people with a history of severe allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine should not take it.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is recommended for people aged 16 years and older.

What if I am taking other medication?

Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking, have recently taken or might take any other medicines, including any medicines, vitamins or supplements that you buy without a prescription from your pharmacy, supermarket or health food shop. Tell your doctor or pharmacist if you have recently received any other vaccine. Check with your doctor or pharmacist if you are not sure about what medicines, vitamins or supplements you are taking and if these affect.

How do I update my TMO patient contact details?

Call 22664 between 8am – 4pm, Monday – Friday and speak to Pa Tauakume or Haumata Hosking. Or contact them on; Haumata 57481, Pa 57486, Philomena 57482 or Renee 57486. Alternatively, you can complete this Online TMO Patient Details form

What are the repercussions if I decline the COVID-19 vaccination?

Getting the COVID-19 vaccine is voluntary. Should you become infected with COVID-19 you may be required to cover isolation costs.

Will I get time off work to get vaccinated?

We encourage you to talk with your employer so you can work around your appointment date and time. It is highly encouraged that you do not miss your assigned appointment as this will affect your vaccination plan.

What if I am travelling to New Zealand or abroad during the rollout?

You are highly encouraged to defer travel overseas if you are planning on getting the COVID-19 vaccine. TMO cannot accommodate individual requests for personal appointments outside of the rollout plan as the vaccines have a short shelf life. Unnecessary travel is not encouraged during the COVID-19 vaccination rollout.

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I’m pregnant?

Yes. Pregnant women are at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and suffering the severe symptoms of COVID-19 including severe respiratory illness as well as increased risk of complications with childbirth. It is highly recommended that you talk to your health care professional if you have any questions or concerns.

Can I get the COVID-19 vaccine if I’m breastfeeding?

As with all vaccines on the New Zealand Immunisation Schedule, there are no safety concerns about giving the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to women who are breastfeeding. By being vaccinated, mothers can also provide some protection against COVID-19 for their babies via their breastmilk.

What are the side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine?

Like all medicines, the vaccine may cause side effects in some people. These are common. They are usually mild, don’t last long and won’t stop you from having the second dose or going about your daily life. The most common reported reactions are pain at the injection site, a headache and feeling tired or fatigued. Muscle aches, feeling generally unwell, chills, fever, joint pain and nausea may also occur.

Will TMO provide support for those who develop serious side effects to the COVID-19 vaccine?

Yes. If you experience any side effects after leaving either of your appointments or feel unwell, call the Tupapa Outpatients on 20066 who will be able to provide assistance. 

Does the vaccine protect us?

Research has shown that once fully immunized, the vaccine is 100% effective in reducing your chances of becoming severely unwell and being hospitalized if infected with COVID19. Your chances of contracting and passing the virus on is also reduced by 95%. 

How long will I be protected once I am fully immunized?

The COVID19 vaccines have only been around for less than a year. Research is currently showing that immunity has lasted for at least 8 to 9 months after being fully immunized. As time goes on, we will be able to collect more information on how long this immunity will last.

If I have an underlying health condition such as diabetes or hypertension, can I get the COVID19 vaccine?

Yes. Vaccination is an important layer of protection that adults with underlying conditions need to consider. Having an underlying health condition puts you more at risk of becoming severely ill from COVID-19.

Can I still take my normal blood pressure medication before my vaccine appointment?

Yes. It is important that you continue to take your medications as advised by your doctor. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to a health care professional. 

Can I still take my normal diabetes medication before my vaccine appointment?

Yes. It is important that you continue to take your medications as advised by your doctor. If you have any questions or concerns, talk to a health care professional. 

Can I still contract COVID19 after being fully immunized?

Yes. The COVID19 vaccines do not provide you with 100% protection from contracting COVID19. However, research has shown that being fully immunized can reduce your chances of becoming severely unwell, being hospitalized and causing death. Research has also shown that you are 95% less likely to transmit the virus to another person once fully immunized. 

I have completed both COVID-19 vaccine doses in the Cook Islands and now require an official certification. How do I get one?

If you require certification of your COVID-19 vaccination for any purpose contact Te Marae Ora representative Haumata Hosking on 22664 (Monday - Friday, between 8am - 4pm). 

The costs are outlined below.
Vaccination Certificate $15
Vaccination ID Card $50

*Note: Passenger travel between New Zealand and the Cook Islands under the Quarantine-Free Travel Agreement and COVID-19 Alert Level 1 currently DO NOT require official certification of having received the COVID-19 vaccination to travel between both countries. We will advise of any further updates regarding travel as they arise.

Have you previously tested positive for COVID-19?

If yes, when you travel to the Cook Islands you will need to provide documentary evidence of completing the isolation period and that you are not infectious anymore. 

Can I use more than one contact tracing app?

Only one can operate at a time. If you have another Bluetooth contact tracing app on your phone (e.g NZ Covid Tracer App), first turn off Bluetooth tracing on that app, before turning on Bluetooth tracing in CookSafe+ . There is no need to uninstall other apps. If you are a visitor to New Zealand or the Cook Islands you should switch to the app of the country you are visiting, to ensure that you receive relevant health advice and contact details. Contact history and notifications will continue even if you switch between the NZ Covid Tracer app and CookSafe+.

How is my privacy protected while using the CookSafe+ app?

When you enable Bluetooth tracing, your privacy is always protected — it cannot share your location, your name or anything else about you. Bluetooth tracing also does not record who you have come into contact with, or where you were. This means if you receive an alert because you came into contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, no one but you knows you have received it. All the contact tracing information you collect with the app is held securely on your phone, and it’s always your choice what information you choose to share.

How do I download CookSafe+ app on my device?

The CookSafe+ app is currently available for free download to your smartphone from either the Google Play Store or Apple App Store Ensure that your device has the most up to date operating system for the app to function properly. 

Should I keep using CookSafe in conjuction with the CookSafe+ app?

Yes. Bluetooth tracing is not intended to replace our existing contact tracing processes or the CookSafe QR codes. You still need to scan your QR codes to keep track of where you’ve been. Bluetooth tracing is an added tool — it helps keep track of the people we’ve been near.

How does CookSafe+ differ from CookSafe?

The current CookSafe does not require an individual to carry a device, only a QR card. People ‘Tag-in’ to public premises, and their number is timestamped and uploaded to a secure database. Tracing of contacts requires inspection of that database by the Ministry of Health, to identify other individuals present at the specified premises during the same time period. The current CookSafe does not directly record casual contact between individuals

How does CookSafe+ work?

Once you have turned CookSafe+ Bluetooth tracing on, it works by sending out a private and secure random ID code. The Bluetooth tracing function records how close the other phone was, and for how long. The phones you come into contact with will need to have Bluetooth tracing turned on as well. This means that when someone tests positive for COVID-19, they can send an anonymous notification containing all the random IDs their phone has sent out over the past 14 days. If your phone recognises any of these IDs, and you had been close enough for long enough to be at risk of exposure, you’ll receive an alert. This alert will advise you on what to do to keep yourself and your family safe.

What is CookSafe+?

CookSafe+ is an added security Contact Tracing app using smart phone Bluetooth technology. CookSafe+ is designed for people located in the Cook Islands, but is compatible with the NZ Covid Tracer app. Bluetooth tracing allows you to receive an alert if you have been near another app user who tests positive for COVID-19.

How do i use my CookSafe QR card?
  1. Carry your QR card with you (take a picture of your QR code and store it on your phone) and Tag In at all participating Businesses or Government Departments that feature a CookSafe Tag In Here sign.
  2. Tag In by holding your card or code clearly within the scanning area of the device.
  3. The screen will appear green and the device will normally make a sound after a successful Tag In.
What are some of the COVID-19 symptoms?

Symptoms include (but are not limited to) fever, cough, diarrhoea and difficulty breathing. Difficulty breathing is a sign of possible pneumonia and requires immediate medical attention. It can take up to 14 days for symptoms to show after a person has been infected.

How do I sign up for CookSafe?

You can register and collect your CookSafe QR cards from Chamber of Commerce office, Tourism Visitor Information Centre, Vodafone office and Prime Foods. Your information (name, address, contact number/email address) is secured through an encrypted database only accessible by selected staff within the Ministry of Health. This information will only be used for the purpose of contact tracing for COVID-19

What if I get sick while in the Cook Islands?

Isolate yourself from other people and put on a mask if you have one; and call Healthline on 29667 for advice about what to do

What is CookSafe?

CookSafe is a simple and secure contact tracing system which enables all residents and visitors to be issued with a personal QR card. These cards are used to Tag In at all Businesses and Government Departments who have registered for CookSafe and set up their Tag In stations. The CookSafe database is then only accessible by the Ministry of Health.

What do i do if i am feeling sick? Who do i contact?

Stay home if you're sick, report flu-like symptoms. For Health-related questions or concerns, please contact the Healthline on 0800 1800; 0800 1801; 0800 1802 or go direct to your Puna.

Can I come to Rarotonga by Cruise Ship?

Entry restrictions for Cruise Ships, Yachts and Leisure Crafts will remain in effect until 30 June 2020. A temporary ban on the entry of all cruise ships, yachts and leisure crafts to the Cook Islands territorial waters on public health grounds.

Can I travel to any of the outer islands?

Yes. Under Alert Level 1 there is no stand-down period or COVID-19 testing before travel to our Outer Islands. You may be required to complete a health survey and have your temperature taken upon check in.

Aitutaki and Atiu are the two most visited sister islands in the Cook Islands. They, and our other sister islands, are accepting visitors. Please visit www.airrarotonga.com for information on flight schedules to these islands.

I'm wanting to stock up on hand sanitizer at home. What is the alcohol percentage for the preferred hand sanitzer?

Any hand sanitizer containing 70% alcohol is preferred.

I have been in New Zealand for over 14 days and will not be travelling before my trip to the Cook Islands in the next 3 months, do I still need to self-quarantine?

NO. So long as you have not been outside of New Zealand for 14 consecutive days prior to departure or have not been in contact with anyone who has contracted COVID-19, you will not require to self quarantine.

What are the key Public Health Measures i should always practise?
How can i protect myself against COVID-19?

- Wash your hands regularly (at least 20 seconds) with soap or hand sanitiser
- Maintain physical distancing of 2 metres from other people as much as possible, other than those in your home (the small group of people you are in supervised quarantine with)
- Cover coughs and sneezes with your arm/elbow
- Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands
- Avoid hugs, kisses or shaking hands
- Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces regularly

What if I am sick now?

Do not travel without first seeking medical attention and testing for COVID-19. Your assistance in minimising risk to other passengers and country of arrival is required to enable us to effectively manage the spread of COVID-19. If you have fever, cough, and/or shortness of breath, let a Health or Biosecurity Officer know immediately.

Other travellers with signs and symptoms of illness (fever, cough, or difficulty breathing) may require additional health assessment.

I am a Cook Islander, residing in New Zealand, can I travel to the Cook Islands?

YES. If you have not travelled outside of New Zealand within 14 days of your intended date of travel, you will be permitted entry into the Cook Islands. Please note that you may also be asked to do a temperature check  and/or answer health related questions when checking in  at the airport. 

What is the difference between quarantine and isolation?

Quarantine is for people who are not showing any symptoms but require separation from others in case they may have the virus.

Isolation is for people who are showing symptoms and require separation from others to limit the spread of the virus. This can be in a hospital setting or in their home or community facility.

What is the entry criteria to the Cook Islands?

To be eligible to travel to or from the Cook Islands and New Zealand on a quarantine-free flight you must first meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Must have been in New Zealand or the Cook Islands for 14 consecutive days before departure
  • Must not have tested positive for COVID-19 prior to departure. And if you have, that you have health clearance that you are no longer a risk
  • Must not be awaiting the results of a COVID-19 test that was undergone during the 14-day period

Normal immigration rules apply in both New Zealand and Cook Islands.

Why is contact tracing using CookSafe important?

If a potential COVID-19 case has been identified, the Ministry of Health needs to be able to quickly trace people who may have been exposed to an infected individual through the process of contact tracing. This process helps to keep the Cook Islands and its’ visitors safe. Our contact tracing system doesn’t rely on the user having to have a smartphone to be able to participate in CookSafe. This means our mamas and papas who are our most vulnerable can access and participate in contact tracing.

Are the Cook Islands borders open?

Yes. The Cook Islands borders are only open to those who meet the requirements under the Cook Islands Travel Advisory

As of 17 May 2021, the Cook Islands has commenced Quarantine Free Travel (QFT) with New Zealand. This means that anyone who has been in New Zealand or the Cook Islands for 14 consecutive days prior to departure can travel to the Cook Islands under this QFT arrangement. Visit Cook Islands Border FAQs for more information.

What happens when I need to go into quarantine?

You will be issued a Category Quarantine Order (CQO) by the Ministry of Health where you will be required quarantine at the place where you are residing with members of your family who also reside at the same place. Quarantine ends 14 days from date stated on CQO. Your quarantine may or may not be supervised so it is important that you follow the rules as outlined in CQO.

Do I need to provide a negative COVID-19 test before I can travel to the Cook Islands?

No. Under the current Level 1 Alert Level you are not required to provide a negative COVID-19 test to be eligible to travel to the Cook Islands. However, when the Alert Level changes, this is also amended. 

Is it safe to travel to the Cook Islands?

Yes it is safe to travel to the Cook Islands, there are currently 0 (zero) confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Cook Islands

Do i need to do anything prior to travelling to the Pa Enua?

Yes TMO will issue a medical clearance for persons travelling to the Pa Enua by plane or sea, prior to departure. TMO staff will be at the airport to conduct a screening process prior to departure. A nurse will check the passenger’s temperature to ensure they are fit to travel. Any passenger with a temperature ≥ 38 degrees Celsius may be required to undergo further testing and complete another phone consult over the phone in order to obtain a medical clearance to travel to the Pa Enua.

Do I need to be vaccinated before I travel to the Cook Islands?

You are encouraged to get vaccinated for your own travelling safety. It is not a requirement for eligibility to travel to the Cook Islands.

What happens during contact tracing?

1. Cook Islands and New Zealand health services are notified of any suspected/positive COVID-19 case/s
2. CookSafe and CookSafe+ data is extracted for list of potential contacts (if case of visitor, passenger manifests are requested from airline/s and accommodation notified)
3. Health Officers will contact all potential contacts, deployed to conduct COVID-19 swab testing and report back to supervisers
4. Contacts asked to isolate for 14days, monitored by health officers
5. Clearance only provided by assigned Health Director

Will shops and busineses still be open?

There are advisorys going out to our community outlining best practices and social gatherings where possible, but currently it is business is usual. However, this could change as the situtation develops.

Are there any restrictions on my movements within the community?

There are no restrictions on personal movement but everyone is encouraged to maintain a record of where they have been or using the CookSafe and CookSafe+ contact tracing systems.