27 Aug 2021

Pasifika uptake of Covid-19 vaccine 'really reassuring', GP says

9:00 am on 27 August 2021

Pasifika now lead the way in full vaccinations among people aged 40 and above.

File pic

File photo. Photo: AFP

The community has been targeted by abusive messages after it was revealed that a church service just days before lockdown has spawned a large sub-cluster of Covid-19 cases.

The latest data - which tracks the period until Tuesday when the eligibility age was still 40 - shows 57 percent of Pasifika over 60 are fully vaccinated and 31 percent of those aged 40 to 59.

That was higher than any other ethnicity for those age groups.

Pasifika GP network chair Api Talemaitoga said those numbers were cause for celebration and mirrored the situation he was seeing on the frontline.

"What we are seeing is Pacific people actually coming forward asking to be vaccinated if only we facilitate it and make it permissive and easy for these communities, and that's what we've seen in the last seven days."

Most heartening was number of young people coming forward to be vaccinated, he said.

"What's really surprised me is those between 12 to 15 who have come with their parents on their parents' appointments, or their grandparents' appointments even, wanting to be vaccinated. And that's really reassuring."

While Pasifika still lagged behind other groups in first doses administered, almost three-quarters of those aged over 60 and half of those between 40 and 59 had got at least their first jab.

Pasifika Medical Association board member Maryann Heather said she expected that to increase in coming weeks.

Dr Api Talemaitoga

Pasifika GP Network chair Api Talemaitoga. Photo: GREG BOWKER VISUALS

"Having this latest outbreak and having half of our numbers affected being Pasifika, it's actually galvanised people and scared people into actually coming forward and asking for vaccinations.

"So what we've seen - especially through Ōtara Vaccination Centre - our numbers have really, really increased. In the last seven days, we've had over 3000 vaccinations done and it's just over 60 percent are Pasifika."

A major sub-cluster of the latest outbreak centred on a Pasifika church.

In reaction, the community had been targeted with abuse and vitriol, much of it suggesting Pacific peoples were not doing their bit for the country.

Manukau ward councillor Efeso Collins said Pasifika had responded in the best possible way.

"Our form of retaliation has been to go out and get vaccinated and keep everybody safe, and I think that just reflects the kind of community we are," he said.

"Everyone's in a position where we know what's demanded of all of us is that we take the precautions we need to take if we are going to have safe, vibrant and prosperous future."

Pacific Trust Otago vaccine programme lead Losā Moata'ane said the community in the south was also helping non-Pacific people.

"The Pasifika communities are actually doing their part and doing more," Dr Moata'ane said.

"Even in our place ... we are vaccinating non-Pasifika who are stopping by. So I think it's unfair to say that our community is the community that's the problem."

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