Tagata Pasifika The Pacific voice on New Zealand television since 1987

Low vaccination rate of younger Pacific people ‘the real worry’

Aucklanders felt a huge sense of relief moving out of Level 4. But there have been questions if we have moved out of it too quickly, leaving behind Māori and Pasifika whose vaccination rates are lower than mainstream.

Border workers have until this Thursday to get their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. A week ago half of the roughly 500 border workers who hadn’t had one were port workers. Marama T-Pole asked the Maritime Union why some workers weren’t getting the vaccine.

“A few of them are saying they’re just concerned about the quickness of how we came with a vaccine,” says Ports of Auckland Union Delegate Sitivi Unasa.

“A lot of them are worried about side effects and all that.”

Auckland GP Dr Api Talemaitoga says there’s a lot of misinformation in the community.

“Top vaccinologists in New Zealand have said this is the most impressive, well tested vaccine that they have seen,” says Talemaitoga.

“It hasn’t just started in 2019. The technology has been developed since 2003. So ever since SARS epidemics, MERS, swine flu in Asia, our health researchers worldwide have been working on developing the technology behind this vaccine.

“So it’s really safe. It doesn’t affect your fertility. A lot of people worry about the long-term side effects. The technology works with the cell; it doesn’t change your DNA. So the long-term side effects are really not something we should be worried about.”

Talemaitoga is happy that 74% of Pasifika over 65 have had at least one dose of the vaccine. But he says the real worry is that 60% of Pasifika under 35 have not been vaccinated.

“As we’ve found with Delta, it affects the younger, more socially connected age groups. So we need a big catch-up with our younger Pacific people.”

This week ethnic-specific vaccination events launched across New Zealand, including drive-throughs for the Niue, Cook Islands and Samoan communities in South Auckland. Community leaders say these sites will be key to changing the figures.

“There’s a large number of people in [Māngere, Manurewa and Ōtara] that we’re trying to work with,” says Dr Siro Fuata’i, who is helping to run the Samoa Tutū Fa’atasi vaccination site in Māngere. “So we’ve reached out to community groups, church networks, to different organisations that have linkages into the community.”

“A lot of Pacific groups feel more comfortable in their own environment and working with people they feel comfortable with, trust, and they can go into groups.”

Watch the full talanoa with Marama T-Pole above.

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