Pacific communities reach 90 percent first dose vaccination rate

Ninety percent of New Zealand's Pacific communities have now had their first vaccination, an achievement largely being put down to the efforts of community leaders.

Minister for Pacific peoples Aupito William Sio made the announcement on Wednesday afternoon, saying the country's Pacific communities can be proud, but there is still work to do yet.

"Reaching this milestone reflects the work Pacific Health Providers and other community leaders have put in to reaching people in our Pacific communities across Aotearoa to support the vaccination drive, by door-knocking, going to workplaces and places of worship to vaccinate," the minister said.

"However, we still have work to do to reach those who are yet to receive their first dose, and also to encourage our communities to get their second dose, which will help us be able to get back to doing all the things we enjoy over the coming summer."

According to the Ministry of Health, about 79 percent of Pacific Peoples are fully vaccinated. The Pacific rates compare to 84 percent of all eligible Kiwis being fully vaccinated and 92 percent having had their first dose. Māori rates are 80 percent first jab, 65 percent second jab.

Sio said giving community leaders a say in delivering vaccination services was critical and praised the approach by some providers to weave cultural festivities into events. 

He said initiatives included pop-up events, a special 0800 vaccine booking number staffed by Pacific language speakers, and buses targeting areas where rates are low or where the community may struggle accessing services. 

Content was available in nine Pacific languages on the COVID-10 website while there has been Pacific content in communication campaigns as well.

"Over the last year the Ministry of Health, in partnership with the Ministry of Pacific Peoples, has set up Pacific community roadshows and online fono across the country with the involvement of Pacific youth. These forums saw robust discussion about misinformation around the COVID-19 vaccine and vaccine hesitancy in the community.

“The Ministry of Health has also commissioned research to better understand Pacific peoples’ attitudes towards the COVID-19 vaccination, which helps to further refine our approach towards addressing vaccine hesitancy and misinformation amongst Pacific communities."

Sio said he encouraged everyone to get vaccinated, if they have had their first, to get their second.