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Published Friday 24 Dec 2021

When the vaccine rollout campaign began, hesitancy from Pacific communities presented unique challenges. Now they are on the brink of reaching 90 percent for their second dose across the 2DHB regions – and there is a big reason why.

The Pacific 2DHB COVID-19 Vaccination Campaign team are joint winners of Hutt Valley and Capital & Coast DHBs’ Celebrating Success Champion of Collaboration and Integration award. The team is made up of staff across Hutt Valley and Capital & Coast DHBs and key Pacific leaders from various Pacific health organisations and community groups such as the Pacific Health Service Hutt Valley, Pacific Health Plus, Te Vaka Atafaga, Taeaomaninio Trust, church leaders, and media professionals such as Catalyst Pacific, who all have the shared goal of protecting Pacific people from COVID-19.

With so much uncertainty surrounding COVID-19, Pacific Equity Lead Alfred Soakai said it was vital that they reached out to Pacific people during the vaccine rollout rather than wait for the people to come to them.

“When the vaccine rollout started people were a bit weary. Our people are not very forthcoming when it comes to health services. We sometimes put health far down the priority list. Providing food, the needs of our children, rent, and accommodation is a struggle already. So when they see us bring vaccinations to churches, engaging directly with communities to co-design and create vaccination Festival Days, it is an effort they value and appreciate. And in return they engaged and brought their communities.”

Soakai said another key to their success was making sure that the vaccine rollout was more of a celebration rather than a clinical procedure.

“We wanted to make it a celebration, a familiar environment for them to come together as a community to ease the hesitancy. We knew if we provided the opportunity, and removed the barriers, they would come. It was a challenge each day but we found ways to work through it.”

Soakai said he was proud of what his team have achieved because it had created faith in the COVID-19 response for the Pacific community.

“We have delivered equity by creating specific Pacific vaccination clinics called ‘Festival Days’ by either taking vaccinations into our communities or hosting them at Community Vaccination Centres for Pacific ethnic groups, during a troubling time like this pandemic. We have gone out into the community to reconnect and it is like we are bringing faith back into the community by letting them know that this is doable and we can do this as a team. It has been a wonderful experience.”

Soakai praised his team for their tireless efforts during the year.

“I am extremely proud, to the point where I know for sure that the work that we have done would not have been possible without the team. We had to be strategic because we did not want anybody to get burnt out, but we made it. So it is has been a team effort, not just from the Pacific Team, but all health providers across Wellington.”

He said the Pacific Team would now be looking into how they can further support Pacific people to get future vaccinations and booster shots.

“We have broken the hesitancy barrier and promoted a good experience, and that the vaccine is not something to be afraid of. We continue to normalise vaccination and we want to provide further support for our people so they know where to go to get their vaccine and boosters to protect their families and communities. Thank you to all the stakeholders, communities, and providers who have turned up and worked with us during our campaign.”