Vaccine hesitancy worrying Pasifika health providers

Pacific health providers are encountering a stumbling block in its Pasifika vaccination rollout, with many in the community anti-vax or vaccine hesitant.

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It’s estimated about 10 per cent of the population are unwilling to get the jab but in some Pacific communities it’s believed to be higher. Source: 1 NEWS

Frank Koloi from The Fono, which has launched many initiatives to try and encourage their communities to get the jab, told 1 NEWS battling the anti-vax movement was a big challenge.

“It has gained a lot of momentum in the past few weeks and we are constantly battling with that," he said.

"There [are] a lot of resources that [have] been put in to try and address some of those fears that our people have gained from listening and being told of these complete lies."

1 NEWS understands some Tongan doctors have publicly expressed reservations about the Pfizer vaccine to their population.

Some churches have also been telling congregations not to get vaccinated and, instead, trust in God.

Dr Colin Tukuitonga said he was sure it was having an impact because vaccination rates in South Auckland were nowhere where they should be.

“An individual with anti-vax views and so on will have less damage than a church taking that position. I would strongly discourage that kind of thing and ask and request church leaders to refrain from promoting what is essentially harmful outcomes for our people,” he said.

Reverend Setaita Kinahoi Veikune from the Methodist Church said her church strongly promotes vaccination and preach it to their members “in every way possible to understand how we must abide as Christians and responsible citizens”.

Vaccinations (file photo). Source: 1 NEWS

The Government has announced new funding of $26 million to Pacific providers to help with the Covid-19 response and deliver critical services.

Over the coming month, ethnic-specific vaccination drive-throughs are going to be set up – the Tongan one will be run next Thursday to Saturday at a South Auckland church site.

Community leaders are also working hard to educate and explain the vaccine process to those who have reservations.

Melania Luka-Lui, who has been involved in the Pasifika community vaccination initiatives through her St Anne’s Catholic Church in Newtown, said she was concerned about the misinformation circulating among her community.

“We do encourage and we do give out information and they know this is a campaign to save lives,” she said.