Pacific Community Leaders urge Government for a true community-led mobilisation approach
Monday 23 August 2021
The government-designed vaccination roll out has not mobilised our Pacific communities to respond.
Pacific have one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country and shows the current vaccination strategies are not working for Pacific peoples. This is despite millions of dollars being allocated towards Covid-19 vaccination stations, communications, and PR companies to drive awareness and engagement.
Two Pacific Clinical Health Experts that are also members of the government’s COVID-19 response teams, have expressed their concerns about the effectiveness of the strategies. Dr Collin Tukuitonga, has expressed that the DHB’s mass vaccination event held in Manukau, earlier this month, was ineffective in reaching Māori and Pacific communities. Furthermore, Dr Api Talemaitoga said “the event lacked Māori and Pasifika input.”
Current vaccination rollout strategies are highly top-down in approach and lack authentic Pacific community dialogue or initiative. There have been some positive gains in information dissemination, however they have failed to mobilise Pacific communities to be vaccinated. To increase Pacific vaccination numbers requires a “by community for community approach” that is a bottom-up approach.
The Pacific Response to Covid-19 Team (PRCT), is a committee of the Pacific Leadership Forum (PLF) and represents up to 10 Pacific ethnic groups from across the country. The PRCT has been active since March 2020 to provide a community response to the Covid-19 outbreak. The PRCT was pivotal in mobilising Pacific communities to get COVID-19 tested at the Otara South Seas site in April 2020, when Pacific testing was low. In August 2020, the PRCT collaborated with Pacific providers to set up a pop-up community testing station at a Mangere church, when a government response was not forthcoming.
Pacific communities are at risk during the rising pandemic, and we must take community action. The government rhetoric and top-down approach imposed on our communities continues inequitable outcomes.
To increase vaccination uptake for Pacific communities, a truly community designed, partnered approach that is resourced is required to equip and empower our leaders to mobilise their communities across the nation. Pacific people stand with Māori when they fervently say “He tangata, he tangata, he tangata. It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.”
Pakilau o Aotearoa Manase Lua, PRCT Chair and Tongan Community Leader, 027 215 7759, firstname.lastname@example.org
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