The Edge radio station's latest competition open only to listeners who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 has prompted outrage online.
The radio station launched its Rarotonga 'Vaxcation' competition on Monday morning, promoting it on social media with two questions: "Are you getting the vaccine? Do you want a free holiday to Raro?"
The Edge, which is owned by MediaWorks, is offering flights and accommodation in Rarotonga for four people once the travel bubble reopens, in collaboration with Flight Centre. Listeners are required to upload 'proof' that they are vaccinated or are planning to be vaccinated online in order to enter.
The competition was launched with the tagline "get vaxxed, get waxed, and get ready to relax."
While hundreds of Facebook and Instagram users who already had or were planning to get the vaccine responded positively to the competition, others dubbed it "a sick joke", "twisted" and "disgusting", claiming the requirement to be vaccinated is discriminatory.
"Just wow, what a f'd up post," one Instagram comment read, while another accused the station of "scooping low [sic]."
"This is not ok," wrote a third, while another suggested the station would lose listeners as a result of the competition.
"It's up to each individual, OMG I can not believe this. I'm switching," one comment read.
"This is so wrong on all the levels," another person wrote on Instagram. "Will there be a competition for voting for The Edge's preferred political party come election time too? Disappointing."
In a statement given to Newshub by The Edge, the radio station said the 'Vaxcation' promotion was designed to "reward" fully vaccinated people, but that those who couldn't or wouldn't get the vaccine would still be able to enter other competitions.
"We encourage people to get the COVID-19 vaccine because collectively that's our best defence against this virus. This competition is to reward people who are vaccinated," the statement read.
"We are aware that some people are not able to get the COVID-19 for health reasons and there are also those who may choose not to get the vaccine. If you fall into one of those categories, this competition just isn’t for you. Rest assured we run lots of competitions that you’ll be able to enter in the future."
The Edge is requiring entrants to upload 'proof' of their vaccination status by taking a photo of their COVID-19 vaccination card or sharing a screenshot of their vaccination booking confirmation to prove their intention to get immunised.
The radio station told Newshub that only one member of staff will have access to those photos, and they won't be shared internally or externally in order to protect entrants' privacy. The Edge acknowledged that the Ministry of Health will not release the medical details of any individual, so vaccine status will only be verified by sighting an official COVID-19 vaccination card or booking confirmation.
Quarantine-free travel from New Zealand to the Cook Islands is currently paused, but there is speculation that vaccine requirements will be put in place once the travel bubble reopens.