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Pacific sporting legends encourage Pasifika youth to get their shot

Namulauulu Alama Ieremia (top left), Cynthia Ta’ala-Timaloa (top right), Lemalu Semo Sititi (bottom left), Motu Tony (bottom middle), Linda Vagana (bottom right). Photo: Supplied
Namulauulu Alama Ieremia (top left), Cynthia Ta’ala-Timaloa (top right), Lemalu Semo Sititi (bottom left), Motu Tony (bottom middle), Linda Vagana (bottom right). Photo: Supplied

A collective of Pacific sporting legends has united to play their part in the effort to increase the vaccination rate for Pacific peoples aged 12 – 34 by encouraging them to get their Covid-19 vaccination.

‘Stay in the game! Get your Shot!’ is the key message from the newly formed Pasifika Sports Collective, a group of sporting legends including former Manu Samoa captain Lemalu Semo Sititi, former All Black and Manu Samoa international Namulauulu Alama Ieremia, former Kiwi Fern and Manusina representative Cynthia Ta’ala-Timaloa, former Kiwis and New Zealand Warrior Motu Tony, and ex-Silver Fern Linda Vagana, who all represented Samoa and/or New Zealand.

“Stay in the game! Get your Shot! is our way of encouraging Pasifika young people to get a Covid-19 vaccination to keep them and their families safe. Also, it ensures they can continue to pursue their sporting aspirations,” says Lemalu Semo Sititi, convenor of the Pasifika Sports Collective.

“We encourage young people to stay in the game and get their shots so they can continue to enjoy playing sport. If they get their vaccination shot, then they can safely play games and a full season of Rugby, Rugby League, Netball, Boxing or whatever sport they love.”

“Getting your vaccination shots is the best way for young people to safely participate in sport with their family members, teammates and coaches,” says Sititi, who played in 59 matches for Manu Samoa and appeared at three World Cups.

The Pasifika Sports Collective is also calling to action all athletes, administrators and coaches from all sporting codes to stand together to increase the vaccination rates for Pasifika in Auckland by joining this vaccination campaign.

The current vaccination rate for eligible Pacific people in Auckland (approximately 201,000) is at 82% first dose with 63% fully vaccinated. This trails the total Auckland population (approximately 1,433,000) which is at 90% first dose and 76% full vaccination. *

Current Auckland Rugby coach Namulauulu Alama Ieremia says the collective are focused on helping Pacific young people to stay in the game as sport is viewed as a legitimate career path for many Pacific families.

“I know firsthand the reality of choosing sport as a career. There are strong financial incentives that can help lift an athlete and his aiga (family) out of their current situation and set them up financially for the next part of life. For many pacific families, a lot of time, money and effort are poured into sports from a young age,” he says.

“As coach of Auckland Rugby, I’ve seen how the sporting landscape has completely changed in the past three months. People will need to make the choice to get vaccinated if they want to train with teammates, travel overseas to play games or competitions, and earn a living as a professional athlete, administrator or coach.”

The Pasifika Sports Collective have leapt into the vaccination game and will be hosting a vaccination event in Māngere on Friday 5 and Saturday 6 November. The vaccination drive-through event is aimed at Pacific young people who are involved in school sports or are members of sports clubs.

Current Manusina Assistant Coach, Cynthia Ta’ala-Timaloa is a key lead in the operations team for the vaccination drive through event which will be held at Mangere East Hawks Rugby League Club, 10 Hain Ave.

“We’re proud to represent our countries on the sports field, and now ready to play our part to get our people vaccinated in our communities. Our pacific heart and spirit have drawn us together, which means getting off the sidelines and helping others to get vaccinated,” she says.

“I’ve been supporting a few vaccination events in the past month across Auckland. Pacific people are coming out in their thousands to get vaccinated because they see their family and friends helping to run these events. If you haven’t been vaccinated yet, take this opportunity to get your shot and stay in the game for you, your loved ones and community.”

The Pasifika Sports Collective is made up of athletes, administrators and coaches who are currently or formerly involved in sport. They first came together as Samoans in sport responding to the rally call by Samoa Tutū Fa’atasi, a movement that started in September to help increase the vaccination rate for Samoans in Auckland.

*Ministry of Health of New Zealand, Sunday 24 October

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