23 May 2021

Churches credited with helping to get more Pasifika people vaccinated against Covid-19

10:36 am on 23 May 2021

Churches are being credited with playing a key part in encouraging more Pasifika people to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

Pasifika church leaders receive their first Covid-19 vaccination.

Pasifika church leaders receive their first Covid-19 vaccination. Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

Research commissioned by the Health Ministry shows that in March 59 percent of Pasifika were prepared to be vaccinated - but a month later, the figure had jumped to 79 percent.

A GP with the Pacific health provider Fono, Malia Funaki, said health officials and churches have been working together.

"The church leaders have been attending as well as some of my other colleagues and talked to the church ministers and sometimes with the congregations to discuss the importance of getting vaccinated, the safety with this vaccine that we've got in New Zealand."

She said a lot of work has also gone into debunking false information about the Covid-19 vaccine.

Funaki said she is not surprised by the improved figures.

"Obviously that's why they're booked for a Covid vaccine cause they were absolutely happy to have the vaccine, so I think those people coming forward, it's really clear that they have been well-informed before they come into the vaccination centre to get their Covid vaccine."

About 70 percent of Pacific Islanders attend church regularly, so leaders of these congregations are being reminded of the influential role they play as a vaccine messenger.

Earlier this month Pacific church ministers stepped up to get their Covid-19 vaccinations at the South Seas Ōtara vaccination clinic encouraging their congregations and communities to do the same.

Earlier this year Manukau councillor Efeso Collins said he planned to help those on the fence about the vaccine in his South Auckland electorate.

He encouraged the importance of "a conversation after church ... with a coffee and a muffin to talk through distrust to make a difference".

On Wednesday, Lower Hutt held a Pacific Vaccination Festival Day which marked the start of the DHB's bid to vaccinate more than 5000 Pacific people and their families in the region.

Capital and Coast District Health Board has dropped the qualifying age of 65 down to 55 and older, for Māori and Pacific people and their households.

DHB Pacific people's health director Tagaloa Junior Ulu said it was about "equity" since it recognised that Pacific people tended to get illnesses sooner than the rest of the population.

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