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NZ Government and Pasifika clinicians team up for online vaccine fonos

Clinicians and health experts zoomed in today to address concerns over COVID-19 vaccine
Community and church leaders gathered via zoom to learn more the Covid-19 vaccine and immunisation from Pasifika health experts.

Hosted by the Ministry of Pacific Peoples (MPP), last week community and church leaders from the Northland Pasifika community gathered via Zoom to learn more about the key immunisation programmes and the Covid-19 vaccine roll out.

A panel of Pasifika health experts and clinicians were on hand to field questions about Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR), Influenza and Covid-19 vaccinations. But with the Covid vaccine rollout commencing on the weekend, it was the latter which dominated the discussion.

Addressing the participants, Minister for Pacific Peoples Aupito Su’a William Sio says it’s important for Pacific leaders to hear and share vaccination information from trusted sources in the Pasifika community.

“The clinicians and officials that you’re talking with today, they are people that you know,” says Sio.

“But I also want to assure you they are people that I fully trust in the work that we’re doing as a Government. They are people that I rely and depend on, they are working really, really hard behind the scenes to make sure that the government gets the best information, to make good quality decisions that keep our communities safe.”

The clinician panel included Chairperson of the Nursing Council of New Zealand Safaato’a Fereti, and Doctors Teuila Percival, Api Talemaitonga, Corina Gray and Debbie Ryan.

Ryan emphasised the terrible effects of Covid-19 on Pacific families in the States. “We’ve seen that our Pacific families in places like USA are the people who are most affected, so we are really aware of why this vaccination campaign is important.”

Ryan says, “We are really excited to be working with our colleagues and Government to share the information so that all of our Pacific families can get the most benefit from the protection that is being offered.”

While Pacific populations make up less than 1% in the state of Oregon, according to the Oregon Health Authority, Pacific Islanders account for 3% of Covid-19 infections and are 10 times more likely to be hospitalised than any other ethnic group. In Hawaii, Pacific Islanders make up 4% of the State population but 23% of Covid-19 cases.

Dr Debbie Ryan discusses different types of Covid-19 vaccines
Dr Debbie Ryan discusses different types of Covid-19 vaccines with Zoom fono participants.

CEO of Counties Manukau DHB Fepulea’i Margie Apa thanked the Northland Pacific communities for their diligence in getting tested during the latest community outbreak. “More than 7300 Pacific people came out to get a test, responding to the cases, in particular Papatoetoe High School community,” Apa said.

“It’s important that our community keeps responding… that testing does help us contain or at least help us understand if we have the virus in the community.”

Apa also stressed the importance of these forums to hear directly from Pasifika communities. Apa says, “Information is a two-way street; we would like to keep using this forum to share with you where we’re up to with our planning.”

“We really value your advice, just as you did during the testing – you telling us where you think it’s best for us to have locations, communicate with our community so that we are confident that the information is getting through.”

“This forum is for you to tell us where you think the information is not getting through or maybe there are rumours in our community or stories going around that need to be informed. It is really important that we are able to work together to make sure our communities get the right information to help them make an informed decision about vaccinating. We don’t want our community to make decisions out of fear or worry or concern if they’ve not been able to get facts, and there are many of our clinical colleagues who can answer some questions so that people are getting the facts openly and honestly to inform their decisions.”

Commencing on the first week of March, MPP will hold more regional Zoom fonos with Pasifika communities in the Auckland/Waikato region, Wellington, Christchurch and Southland Otago. Ethnic specific Zoom fonos will also be held in the evenings.

“Now we need to make sure that in the regions, those who speak different languages also get to hear that information,” says Sio.

“This isn’t just about getting the vaccine and… keeping you safe; it’s about empowering ourselves so that as we protect ourselves, we can protect our family.” 

For more information of the upcoming Zoom fonos, head to mpp.govt.nz.

 

 

 

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