3 August 2021

Family and community: motivating Pasifika people to get vaccinated

Still in their Sunday best and straight from church service, parishioners of St Paul’s Trinity Pacific Presbyterian Church filtered into the church hall. The first of four church-based Pasifika mobile clinics across Canterbury started there on Sunday, 1 August.

The community leaders, ministers, and Pasifika organisations like Tangata Atumotu are actively combatting the spread of misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Our Ministers have taken a lead in the COVID-19 vaccination space and have stepped into Covid Vaccination Champion roles. In these roles they are calling their communities to action,” said Carmen Collie, Tangata Atumotu General Manager.

“Misinformation has been rife within our community, particularly across social media platforms. Our local COVID-19 Vaccination Champions campaign aims to counter this misinformation and provides a respected and trustworthy voice, encouraging the community to get vaccinated.”

Families came through to get vaccinated. The organisers of the mobile clinic ensured that everyone felt this was a safe space. Carmen explained that vaccinating at churches enabled them to reach and vaccinate whole communities in one place. “The vaccination process is respectful and culturally responsive, helping to overcome some of the anxieties people are feeling about receiving the vaccine.”

For Lani who has children and an elderly family member living at home, getting vaccinated was about protecting them. “I’ll do anything for my family,” she said. 

While for Alicia, the hope of visiting family in Samoa motivated her to get vaccinated. “I want to protect my babies in the long run, and when we can visit family in Samoa, we will be protecting them as well.” 

For Fijian-born Atefa, becoming a trained vaccinator, and helping her community be protected, felt like a privilege. “I’m from Fiji and there’s a lot of community transmission there. Getting this vaccine is going to boost everyone’s health. It is going to help protect our country. It is going to help protect our families. It is going to help protect the people we live close to and our loved ones.”  

Ramona Alatimu, the Minister’s wife, has taken a lead role as a Vaccination Champion. She is lending her voice to encourage Pasifika people to get vaccinated. She said, “COVID-19 is still around us and we’re not sure when it’s going to go away. I am pleased at the turnout here, I’m so happy. People are still coming.” She also acknowledged the work that has gone through to make this happen. She said this would not have happened if not for the commitment of the organisers, led by Suli Tuitaupe and the team at Tangata Atumotu.

The first mobile vaccination clinic at St Paul’s Trinity Pacific Presbyterian Church vaccinated around 120 Pasifika people.


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