26 Jan 2021

Pasifika nous to be tapped for NZ vaccination rollout

4:26 pm on 26 January 2021

Pasifika healthcare providers are expected to play an integral part of the Covid-19 vaccine rollout in New Zealand.

The chair of the country's Pasifika GP Network, Api Talemaitoga, said the early phase of the pandemic taught providers the merits of clear messaging and cultural awareness.

He said given the buy-in of Pacific communities during mass testing efforts last year, the network is pushing hard to ensure Pacific people are at the forefront of the vaccination roll-out.

Dr Api Talemaitoga.

Dr Api Talemaitoga. Photo: GREG BOWKER VISUALS

"Community health workers who can be trained in doing the technical stuff of vaccination, but they (also) have the cultural nous and ability to speak the language, allay anxieties, with people and families coming in for vaccinations," he said.

Dr Talemaitoga who is part of the New Zealand government's Immunisation Implementation Advisory, has also cautioned against letting the measles vaccination programme falter again.

He said although Covid-19 vaccinations were taking centre stage, it's important to also stay on top of immunisation for measles, an outbreak of which killed over 80 people in Samoa in in 2019.

"We still had a huge gap in our measles, mumps rubella catch-up which should have been happening now, but which hasn't had the currency with our Pacific communities. So that's number one and we're really wanting to ramp that up."

The Ministry of Health launched its measles immunisation programme last year shortly before Auckland entered its second covid-19 lockdown, which overshadowed it.

Dr Talemaitoga said measles messaging from health authorities hadn't been able to cut through to target groups.