Community leader warns against making COVID-19 a 'Pacific problem' after officials reveal majority of cases Pasifika

A Pacific leader says while low vaccination rates are a concern we need to be careful to not make COVID-19 a "Pacific problem". 

On Monday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield revealed more than half of New Zealand's cases are Pasifika.

New Zealand has 107 total cases after 35 new coronavirus cases were reported yesterday. 

"I can say that over 50 percent of the cases are of Pasifika ethnicity. Last report I saw, none of the cases were Māori," Bloomfield revealed. 

Pacific Response Coordination Team Chair Pakilau o Aotearoa Manase Lua told Newshub the cases are a real concern, but it's important to keep them in perspective. 

"It is cause for concern however I'm mindful that we don't focus on the fact that it's a Pacific problem because I am mindful that south Auckland, and anything Pacific, tend to get highlighted in the media when actually the cases originated over on the shore.

"I think we just need to put it into perspective but yes I am very concerned." 

He said his biggest concern is the low rate of vaccination among Māori and Pacific communities. 

"It is problematic that we have our community at such low rates of vaccination, so something is clearly wrong," he said.

"There's something not correlating because we have the highest testing rates of any ethnic group yet we have the lowest vaccination rates so something in there doesn't match up."

Lua said part of the problem is the Government's one size fits all COVID strategy which clearly isn't working for Pacific and Māori people. 

He said the Government has failed to engage Pacific youth, specifically in Tongan communities. 

"I think you need a multi-pronged approach. I think we need to break it down ethnic specifically with different plans and different approaches for Samoa, Tonga, Cook Islands…"

He said while they all share values, they are different communities and need to be treated as such.

"I will speak for myself as a Tongan, the Tongans have some of the lowest vaccination rates of all ethnicities, so we're the lowest of the low, now you've got to ask why?

"We called an emergency meeting with the Tongan community on Friday expressing concern about why our rates are so low and it's clear the youth are not being engaged and sadly the current outbreak is hitting our younger population."

He said disinformation on social media is also causing huge issues.

"People are obviously worried, they're getting a lot of their information through social media, they're not sure who to believe." 

Ministry of Health data shows 1,779,465 first doses of the vaccine have been given and 1,007,801 second doses. In total 2,787,266 doses have been given. 

A breakdown by ethnicity shows so far 1,215,790 European/other have had their first dose and 687,680 their second dose. Asian people have had 288,356 first doses and 155,910 second doses, while Maori have had 156,112 first doses and 92,679 second. Pacific people have 103,645 first doses and 63,164 have also had their second.