Many Pacific Island church leaders in Auckland are urging their congregations to get the Covid-19 vaccine as concerns grow about the influence of conspiracy theories among their people.
While Pasifika are not at the centre of the latest outbreak in Papatoetoe, community leaders are moving quickly to try to get ahead of the virus and misinformation.
“I'd like to speak to my people. There is so much going around in the churches that don't take the vaccine, just believe in God,” pastor Paora Teaukura from the Cook Islands Seventh-Day Adventist church said.
“I don’t go along with that … Yes, our belief, our faith in God is still there. But we need the experts, the health people.”
He said conspiracy theories are rife on social media.
“I beg my people: Don’t tune in, don't listen. Listen to the doctors — they know better.”
Pastor Etonia Temo from the Fijian Seventh-Day Adventist church said it was becoming clear some people didn’t have enough information about how the vaccine worked.
He said some falsely believed they didn’t need the vaccine because they didn’t have symptoms.
One-fifth of the frontline workers who've received the vaccine so far are Pasifika and Māori. Now church leaders are stepping up to make sure others get the same protection.
ASA Foundation chairman Tuala Tagaloa Tusani said it was “encouraging” that ministers were telling their congregations how important getting a vaccine was. The foundation supports Pacific communities by delivering food parcels and masks during the pandemic.
“It has to come from them.”
Pacific service providers are also asking the Government to work with them because they had existing connections in the community.
“We will actually do the reach and connect them and agencies to the churches and organisations in half the time,” ASA Foundation chief executive Tofilau Esther Tofilau said.