13 Oct 2021

Covid-19: Vaxathon 'a call to action' - Efeso Collins

4:22 pm on 13 October 2021

A South Auckland councillor says Saturday's 'Vaxathon' is a "call to action" to get people their Covid-19 shots.

Auckland councillor Efeso Collins was shaken after receiving a death threat after criticising a reality police TV show.

Auckland councillor Efeso Collins Photo: Supplied/ Local Democracy Reporting - Justin Latif

Aotearoa is set to host its first-ever 'Vaxathon' - a nationwide event aimed at boosting vaccination numbers by around 100,000.

Manukau ward councillor Efeso Collins said he was excited about the event, but also hoped it was a little less like the Telethon of old and perhaps a lot more like TikTok of today.

He told Morning Report he had seen huge turnout at vaccination events across South Auckland and he was hoping Saturday saw good numbers too.

"I think Saturday is like our call to action, and it can be a really fun environment that young people will come along to maybe do a few TikToks while they're standing outside and have a great day."

Collins said when dealing with groups that may have been disengaged or disenfranchised it was important to get the communication right.

"Create events where people want to come along, they want to feel like they're a part of something. I think that's the key here, is we're encouraging people to come along as their bubbles, feel like they're part of a movement, and that's going to inspire people to be part of the action on Saturday.

"I'm really excited about it, I'll be there as well, apparently they're coming, they're going to be crossing live to Ōtara a couple of times, and within the youth groups who've been in contact with me already saying they're keen to do a TikTok."

Collins said he might not be in line to take part in any TikToks himself though, he thought he was a bit out of rhythm.

Vaxathon presenter Sonny Ngatai

Vaxathon presenter Sonny Ngatai. Photo: Supplied/Sonny Ngatai

Hahana TV presenter Sonny Ngatai is set to be one of the star presenters of the Vaxathon.

He has been talking about vaccinations with a focus on informing rangatahi through the Hahana programme on Māori TV and with his 25,000 followers on social media platform TikTok .

Ngatai told Morning Report it was important to teach rangatahi about the history of disease in New Zealand and how they affected Māori in particular.

"Māori were badly affected by diseases in the past and our tūpuna didn't have the access to the same resources that we have access to today.

"It's just reminding whānau and rangatahi that what we're doing is protecting our whakapapa and trying to re-emphasise that everyone getting vaccinated is because we care about each other and we want to see everyone show up to Christmas this year pumped and ready to take on the summer."

Ngatai said he had not been targeted by anti-vaccine pushback on his social media platforms with the majority of feedback being positive.

He said crafting content around vaccinations moulded to the interests and trends followed by his younger audience has been essential to getting the message across.

"I think all the messaging is right it's just about tailoring it to the audience you're trying to target and for the audiences, we're targeting on Hahana and TikTok it's all about helping them understand that this is not a decision just for us but it's a decision for whānau."

Ngatai said he was looking forward to presenting the broadcast but apprehensive as to whether he could hold an audience's attention for eight hours.

Dr Grant Davidson of Skills Active Aotearoa.

Dr Grant Davidson. Photo: Supplied

While the Vaxathon has the aim to encourage people to go out and get the vaccine, for people in rural areas getting their shot is not as simple as popping down to the pharmacy and this is clear in vaccination figures.

Covid-19 vaccination rates in rural communities are more than 10 percent behind those in urban centres.

Research from the University of Otago's School of Medicine found that low accessibility, longer distances to travel, underresourced GP services, and a younger population are dampening down vaccine uptake.

In Murupara, a Bay of Plenty town with one of the lowest rates in the country, the nearest permanent vaccination centre is a 50 minute drive from the town.

New Zealand Rural GP Network chief executive Dr Grant Davidson told Morning Report iwi-led vaccine initiatives have shown how community messaging can successfully drive up vaccination rates.

"I think we need to look at places that are doing it really well, for example, the practice in Te Kaha on the East Cape have actually got close to a 90 percent first vaccination rate that's with a high Māori population.

"They mobilised hapū volunteers, St Johns, social services, DHB nurses and what they did was they got vaccinations into the 13 hapū you know three of four people early on.

"They spread the message and said the system works, it's okay it needs to be trusted and they've rolled it out to marae and had a massively positive success."

Dr Davidson said the only other way to increase accessibility was taking the vaccine to the people which was a resourcing issue.

"What we need really is the trusted GPs delivering in those areas and unfortunately they've been slow getting off the line. Only 50 percent of rural GPs are actually registered to administer the vaccination so that's one of the real barriers."

He said vaccine-hesitant people living in rural areas should think twice as overseas research shows they were less likely to experience a positive outcome if they were infected.

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