25 Aug 2021

New Pasifika health-line for vaccinations inundated with calls

5:49 pm on 25 August 2021

Hundreds of Pasifika are booking their vaccinations through a new health-line number.

The new vaccination booking number has been set up to try and address the low rate of vaccination amongst Pasifika. As a group Pasifika are most at risk of becoming infected with the Covid-19 virus and more than half of the current community outbreak cases are among Pasifika.

Although Pasifika New Zealanders now have the highest testing rates in the country, they are not being vaccinated at a corresponding rate.

In an attempt to address language issues and other barriers to vaccination, Pasifika can now access a separate number to book Covid-19 vaccinations.

Otara-based South Seas Healthcare launched this new service after the Northern DHB realised that their main booking line was not effective for Pasifika.

South Seas Chief executive, Silao Vaisola-Sefo said addressing barriers was an important part of the change.

Since the number, 0800-21-12 21, was set up on Friday 20 August it has been inundated: receiving over 400 calls a day to book vaccinations.

"The current 0800 just wasn't fit for purpose for our families, it was hard for them to get hold of someone, couldn't do group bookings, you know, they do things in groups.

"So, these were identified, and really, it was a equity issue," he said.

"It's the language, that's the main thing that's coming up, it's the language. We really had some good data and good feedback.

We are booking families upto 9 members, so that's a really good outcome, that people are actually booking their whole households."

Mr Vaisola-Sefo explained that staff are proactively calling, rather than just waiting for people to call for bookings.

South Seas Health chief executive Lemalu Silao Vaisola-Sefo at Otara's vaccination centre

Photo: RNZ / Rowan Quinn

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the Samoan community within Auckland's Pacific population are particularly affected.

"The reason we have a large number of Pacific cases, particularly Samoan is because of this particular cluster around the AOG event.

What I can also say, is both this time and also as we have seen in the past, the Pacific community is very good at responding to the call to test and isolate, and we have seen great engagement with all those churches."

Many new cases are likely to be disproportionately among Pasifika, as many of the current cases are connected to the Samoan Assembly of God Church Māngere.

POOL -  Director General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield during the Covid-19 response and vaccine update with Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson, Parliament, Wellington.  24 August, 2021  NZ Herald photograph by Mark Mitchell

Photo: POOL / NZME

"I can provide an assurance to Pacific community that we will continue to work with you but secondly, based on the track record Pacific community, we will get to the bottom of it and we will make sure that we get rid of Covid in that community"

The community outbreak has been driving Pasifika towards Auckland's two Pacific vaccination clinics, which Mr Vaisola-Sefo considers a silver lining.

"There's been a massive increase to our Pasifika numbers in the last week, we have been hitting a massive milestone this week where we administed 50,000 vaccines and 45 percent are Pacific.

That's something that we need to be proud of because that's the highest number in New Zealand for any stations.

The number to call for Pacific vaccination bookings is 0800-21-12-21.