10 Jul 2021

Pacific vaccination event with 'wedding' atmosphere attracts 1000 people

8:05 pm on 10 July 2021

More than 1000 Pacific people had their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine today at a church in Porirua.

Six60 turned up to surprise vaccinators and the public

Six60 turned up to surprise vaccinators and the public Photo: RNZ/ Ben Strang

The large scale vaccination event was held at the Congregational Christian Church of Samoa.

There were concerns vaccine uptake in the Pacifica community would be lagging. But in Porirua this morning, a wedding atmosphere helped lure more than 1000 people to the community church to get their first shots of the Pfizer vaccine.

Organisers of the large-scale vaccination event said working with church and community leaders put local people at ease about getting the shots. Free meals were provided to people getting vaccinated.

Capital and Coast District Health Board director of Pacific people's health doctor Junior Ulu said the vaccination event was led by the community.

"When I come in and smell this it smells like a wedding, because this is what we serve at weddings. So there's food in the background, that's very familiar and it feels safe. So when you have that safety component to it, then everyone just gets the injection and they go 'oh'."

People who showed up to be vaccinated were given a free meal

People who showed up to be vaccinated were given a free meal Photo: RNZ/ Ben Strang

Some people wished they could stay and enjoy the atmosphere after their injection, but nurses ensured the crowds rotated through, Ulu said.

"Nurses by nature can be scary so when they are Pacific, ha ha ha ha - even more scarier. And so it's good they are in the front and they say 'no, time's up, go'.

"We use our humour: 'Go home, your wife has been telling you to mow your lawns for ages and you're just taking your time'. So they just use their humour and everyone feels more comfortable."

There probably would have been issues with vaccine uptake in the Pacific community if the district health board had not taken the approach it had, Ulu said.

Officials were expecting about 1000 people to get vaccinated, but as many as 1500 may have been through the doors.

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