Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Lingering public concerns about Covid-19 vaccine

Pacific people receiving the Covid-19 vaccine in New Zealand

By Anauli Karima Fai’ai

The vaccination rollout may be ramping up, but there are some who still need convincing about its safety, which is why government ministers have been rolling up their sleeves to quell public fears.

Among them is Associate Minister of Health Aupito William Sio, who received his second dose late last month.

“People might be nervous about how quickly things were done, but in actual fact there were no shortcuts. Scientists collaborated; countries collaborated; the manufacturers collaborated. So you got world health organisations that have deemed it safe and are already rolling it out to numerous countries. And then for us, we’ve got medsafe, the regulator of all of our vaccines, who themselves have approved the Pfizer vaccine,” he said.

Dr Api Talemaitoga, a GP at Cavendish Doctors in Manukau, was a member of the Government’s Covid-19 Pacific response team, and he’s asking Pacific people to have confidence in the vaccine programme.

“This is a new vaccine for all of us, but we’re lucky that we can see that over 300 million doses have been given overseas and how the rates of Covid are dropping and the rates of hospital admission and deaths are also dropping. I would recommend our community to go to a trusted source – their GP, their practice nurse or look on the Ministry of Health Unite Against Covid website.”

Api says it is important for Pacific people to get vaccinated – not just to protect themselves but also to prevent the spread of the disease to vulnerable members of the community.

“We have situations that make it more likely for the virus to spread, and when it takes hold, we are more likely to get sick. Our people have higher rates of chronic disease like diabetes, heart disease, kidney problems, and vaccination is one way of protecting us.”

So far two groups have been vaccinated, including border workers, high risk healthcare workers and those travelling overseas.

Pene Pati, operatic tenor for the musical trio Sol3 Mio, received his second dose of the vaccine earlier this week.

“When we really look into the groundings of it, it really is to protect. That’s the main aim. The Government wouldn’t roll it out to say, ‘Hey, give it a go; it might not work,'” he said.

“All the border workers have got it, and they’re the ones who are really fighting this war. If you wanna put it up there and if they’re willing to take it, then there shouldn’t be any hesitation from us, the Pacific people, to get out there and do it.”

Now the call is going out to older Māori and Pacific people throughout Auckland to get vaccinated.

On Tuesday it was Pacific church leaders who stepped up to guide the way, including Onehunga EFKS minister Rev Tafatolu Apelu.

“I’m a leader of our congregation, so I have to take it for my people. I have to let them know this is important for them,” he said.

But while herd immunity is the ultimate goal, Sandringham EFKS minister Rev Featunai Liuaana said the church will continue to accept those who decide not to get vaccinated.

“We don’t isolate them; we try to get everyone else to be vaccinated. They [can] still come, but at least there is protection for those that have been vaccinated, and hopefully by seeing the number of people that have been vaccinated, they can actually re-examine their thinking about whether or not to get vaccinated.”

Meanwhile the Government will begin rolling out the vaccine for the rest of the country later this month, beginning with those most at risk of getting very sick from the virus.

There have been criticisms of the deliberate pace at which the Government has rolled out the vaccine, but Dr Api is confident that the Government will meet its target of vaccinating the entire country by November.

“I think we as a Pacific community have shown that when we work together, we lead the way; we saw this with Covid testing last year – Pacific lead the rates for the country.”

But vaccination isn’t mandatory, so whether New Zealand meets its target or not is for the public to decide.

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