Hive of activity at Rarotonga's hospital as frontline health workers receive COVID-19 vaccines

In Rarotonga, the first morning with Kiwi tourists back on the beach looked much like every other morning, however, there was a hive of activity at the hospital.

The first flight of the Cook Islands travel bubble touched down on Tuesday, bringing tourists to the country for the first time in 14 months - when the COVID-19 pandemic began.

It was a new dawn in Rarotonga, with hope the flights will bring tourism, happiness and health for residents.

The flight had brought the country doses of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine which were administered to frontline health workers on Wednesday.

"It feels good, I feel happy and excited," one told Newshub.

But not everyone is convinced on the COVID-19 vaccines, with locals expressing concerns about what they contain.

"I told that doctor I'm not going to use that injection because I don't know what really is it and the doctor said I'm right they don't know about it," one person said.

However, Apii Mamanu, who has been selling food in a local market to make ends meet, decided to get the jab before he resumes his taxi business on Tuesday.

"At first I thought there's no reason for us to be vaccinated especially if everyone coming here is getting vaccinated so there's no need to be vaccinated," he said. "I thought just to be on the safe side, I may as well get vaccinated as well."

You don't have to look far to also find trepidation around the return of Kiwi tourists. Some locals expressed concerns travellers would bring the virus to the island.

Health secretary Bob Williams said there's a plan to address people's concerns which includes identifying those who are wary and scheduling them in for the last days of the vaccination rollout.

"Between now and then there is a team that's going out to raise more awareness to talk about the vaccine and how safe it is," he said.

If they do get the majority on board, the Cook Islands could be one of the most vaccinated countries in the world per capita in just a few weeks.

Nurses from the immunisation advisory centre are supporting them to move quickly and the NZ medical assistance team is backfilling the country's health clinics.

"We'll put several teams through over the next six weeks or so to allow their team to go forward and be the vaccinators," team member Martin Buet said.

As Cook Islanders focus the next few months on the health of their population, the Kiwis who've arrived here on holiday are taking a different kind of medicine - with their pick of the best seats at the beachfront restaurants and spoilt for sun loungers.