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More ethnic-specific figures on booster jabs needed, Pacific GP

Tuesday 1 February 2022 | Written by RNZ | Published in Pacific Islands, Regional


More ethnic-specific figures on booster jabs needed, Pacific GP

The chair of the Pacific GP's network, Dr Api Talamaitoga wants the Ministry of Health to provide daily ethnic-specific figures to get the booster jab rates up in the face of Covid-19 the Omicron variant, already in Aotearoa.

He believes having separate identities for each of the ethnic groups within the Pacific communities would make it easier to target messages in vernacular to each group.

Dr Api Talemaitoga.
Dr Api Talemaitoga. Photo: GREG BOWKER VISUALS

"The Ministry has not released that (figures) and I don't know why, we asked for it last week but I still I haven't seen any figures. That is terrible and that's not on, it just shows their one size fits all doesn't work.

"I'm sorry to say, I thought we had learnt from the last two years, how we can really ramp up our messaging and do it in ethnic specific numbers...even saying 12 percent for Pasifika, we've moved beyond that, this is 2022 and we talk about Tongans, Samoans and Fijians and we have the ability to do it, I don't understand this hesitancy, and frankly I think it is incompetence not to release it in the ethno-specific numbers.

"That is how we target our messaging for instance a vaccination event might be targeting Niueans that's why the zoom fonos are working because they target ethno-specifically," he said.

"So that's why it was really reassuring that the Ministry of Pacific Peoples started up the zoom fonos in English and the other languages last week.

"But, it look like we've got to fight it every step of the way, lot of us were asking for it last year in ethno-specific breakdown.

The colourful community event is another milestone for Pasifika, helping to reach more youth and their families.
The colourful community event is another milestone for Pasifika, helping to reach more youth and their families. Photo: South Seas Healthcare

"What about Chinese, what about Malaysian? This would be a great way of showcasing how the data we collect numblessly, mindlessly can be turned around and used for the good.

"Last year they gave it to us after weeks of asking and pushing, it seem like we've got same thing this year which I find really disappointing.

"Frankly they are not going to get the success rates, I don't even know the rates for Pacific children because they started late and there has been no analysis and they haven't been released to us," Dr. Talamaitoga said.

His bottom line was without the ethnic-specific breakdown he wasn't expecting the same success the District Health Boards had with getting people double-vaccinated at the end of last year.

"There is a Ministry agenda, or maybe they're just busy, there's no one to do it and they don't see it as priority but the numbers will not lift unless we do it ethnic-specific targeted approach."

Waiting to get vaccinated
Waiting to get vaccinated Photo: South Seas Healthcare

Dr Talamaitoga said the Pacific communities could be better prepared if they knew how the booster was tracking, he says the last time they had a competition like in rugby, as to which of the ethnic groups would top the 90 percent mark for the second jab first.

"I'm always of the view that we could be better prepared unfortunately it is quite hard to get data out of Ministry of Health to see how the booster shots are tracking but you can see from the general population it's not doing well."

"To get protection from Omicron first and foremost is to get your booster shot and I think we are terribly behind in that" he said.

"This weekend there is a lot ethno-specific vaccination events happening and that's great, targeting both the young ones, the 5-to-11year olds as well as adults.

"I was of the view we should have been doing this in the holiday period when people had time and you had the two week period to get your immune system really up but we didn't and so we are going to wear some of those consequences I'm afraid," he said with sense of foreboding.

"It's two weeks after the booster shot when you get maximum protection and so the modeling is a bit serious and it shows seven to 10 days when it (Omicron) will arrive, well it is already here now but it will really start to ramp up.

"I don't think we are as prepared as we should be particularly with the booster shot, with the public health measures Pacific people have been really good at following that last year in terms of the social distancing the limits on people at funerals and weddings and I have to say it was quite hard for a very socially connected community to adhere to and to follow," Dr Talamaitoga said.

"I've been really reassured by people coming to the clinic and beginning to talk about 'what should I do ?' we show them the government website, you've got our contact here at the doctors for advice, a family member who should be able to deliver groceries for you and social support.

"It is going to be hard and a lot of us are going to get it but I am worried for the vulnerable that need carers going in and it's that kind of medical workforce that might need to isolate," he said.

The breakdown of ethnic-specific numbers for Pacific people is on the Ministry of Health website, but it is not easily accessible.