1 NEWS Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver has slammed the Ministry of Health over its rollout of the Covid vaccine in the Pasifika community, saying “it’s appalling how this has played out”.
“The fact that Pacific health providers have been begging Government to take the lead on this and we’ve heard the minister today saying they have a good relationship is beyond belief,” Dreaver said on 1 NEWS at 6pm on Wednesday night.
“It does show a huge disconnect between Pacific leaders and the Ministry of Health, it’s appalling how this has played out.
“Pasifika are once again, through no fault of their own, caught in the midst of this Delta outbreak.”
Dreaver’s comments come as Pacific health providers accused the Government of ignoring their advice for months before their community was hit hard by Delta, with around 70 per cent of cases.
Vaccination rates for Pasifika are the lowest in the country and providers are laying the blame for this at the Government's door.
Months ago, Pacific providers told the Government they needed to lead their community's vaccination rollout, but their calls were ignored.
“It’s disappointing as a Pacific organisation and it is frustrating to provide the insight this is what we need to do, people need to be vaccinated, trust us,” Tevita Fonua from The Fono said.
That trust has been lacking and as a result the vaccination rollout has been stunningly unsuccessful for Pasifika.
Group bookings haven’t been able to be done online, some Pacific people don’t have internet or phones, the one-size-fits-all system a bust.
“I think we would have avoided a lot of what we're seeing now, because we would have had our vaccination rates much higher, I have no doubt about that. because the engagement with the community would have been much better and people would have understood this more,” Dr Api Talemaitoga from the Pasifika Medical Association said.
The Government has dismissed a breakdown in trust or any accountability for not engaging Pacific leadership with the vaccine rollout.
“I don’t necessarily agree with that, in fact I’ve heard reports of where Pacific health providers have gone into church congregations in the weekends for example and offered a pop up vaccination clinic after a church service,” Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins said.
“I can absolutely confirm that we have good relationships with Pacific heath providers.”
Those providers advised the Government months ago that pop up clinics at churches were key but it was only piloted before lockdown.