Minister’s story easing Pasifika vaccine angst

Photo: Ministry of Health.

The Minister for Pacific Peoples, Aupito William Sio, says he is happy to see a decrease in anxiety around the Covid-19 vaccine among the region’s Pacific community.

Minister Sio visited Tauranga to speak to residents from the Pacific community about the vaccine and any concerns they may have.

In a visit to the Pacific Island Community Tauranga Trust on Cameron Road, Sio listened to concerns and shared his own personal vaccination story as a way to ease such worries.

“I have been sharing with them my own experience,” says Sio.

“I don’t like needles but I have had my two shots done. I feel quite comfortable and confident with it.

“I have addressed any concerns that they have had.

“Basically, I have said ‘look, this is safe, not only have the World Health Organization approved its usage but we also have MedSafe which has approved the usage of Pfizer.’

“So when it is their turn, I am asking people to please get vaccinated.”

Esther Martin, CEO of the Pacific Island Community Tauranga Trust, says the visit was relaxing and informal with staff and members of the community comfortable talking to Sio and Minister Jan Tinetti, who was also in attendance.

Esther explains that their role is to keep those within the community educated and up-to-date on the rollout and the vaccine’s efficacy.

“PICTT continue to deliver education workshops to the Pacific community,” she says.

“There are concerns amongst the Pacific community, and everyone is entitled to their opinion, however our role is to promote the vaccine, talk about prevention, and encourage families to keep asking questions if they are unsure.

“PICTT is not there to advise families to get vaccinated, we are simply there to educate the ‘prevention’ side of the vaccine.”

Ministry of Health research from April has shown 77 per cent of New Zealanders aged 16 years and over say they are likely to get a vaccine or have already received one. This compares to 69 per cent in March.

In the Pasifika demographic the figure is higher, at 79 per cent, which has jumped from 59 per cent in March.

Those figures are seemingly reflected in Tauranga, according to Sio.

“They did also raise the issue around the vaccine itself.

“That is not just the Covid-19 vaccine but this organisation is also promoting the MMR vaccine, especially for 15-30 year-olds, and also the flu vaccine.

“All of those vaccines are important and they can be taken. Not one after the other, of course,” he jokes, suggesting a sore arm could be the consequence.

“But I don’t sense any hesitation or anxiety about it at all.”

The vaccination programme across the Bay of Plenty continues to remain above target. As of May 23, 22,841 people have received vaccinations in the BOPDHB region.

This represents 8586 ahead of targeted schedule, 160 per cent of the plan scheduled, and Esther says there have been no concerns raised with her about the vaccine rollout in the Pacific community.

“I haven’t heard any negative comments about the rollout.”

Esther states that PICTT have been ensuring information about vaccinations is being translated into relevant languages to ensure information is clearly delivered.

“There’s lots of information provided about the vaccine and the rollout to the Pacific community,” she says.

“Information has been translated into various different languages, and our organisation has also been providing education workshops around the vaccine and the rollout.”

Minister Sio believes that getting the right information out into the Pacific Island community, in the best possible language, has been key to alleviating any anxiety related to New Zealand’s vaccination programme.

“Initially we struggled with that at the start of the first lockdown last year, but we soon picked up that we needed to get information to them in the language they can easily understand.

“We translated a lot of those messages into nine different languages. We were sharing that online and on radio, which we have continued to do all year through.”

Sio states that the Ministry of Pacific Peoples will now work with trusts such as PICTT to ensure details related to the vaccination programme are translated into information specifically relevant for the region itself.

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