Verrall 'very sorry' Pasifika asked to show passports for Covid jab

Source: 1News

Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall has apologised to a group of Pasifika people in the Bay of Plenty who were asked to show their passports when getting their Covid-19 vaccinations.

A provider who tried to register the families for vaccinations on Friday was told by the Bay of Plenty District Health Board they wanted to see their passports to check if they were seasonal workers.

Sameli Tongatea, who works with the Tauranga families, told 1 NEWS it felt like the 1970s dawn raids all over again where Pasifika had to present their passports to authorities.

Verrall told Breakfast on Monday morning that the situation was "absolutely unacceptable".

"It's not good enough and it's never our intention that anyone should be asked for their passports," she said.

"It's very clear to us that we want everyone to participate and that there's no cost, no requirement to prove citizenship, so absolutely unacceptable what happened in the Bay of Plenty.

"There's absolutely no need for a passport, it's got nothing to do with your immigration status."

Verrall said the Ministry of Health very clearly set out expectations to the DHB that this "should not happen".

The group involved said they considered leaving and not getting a vaccination, but decided to push on despite the incident.

Covid-19 vaccination sign outside Baypark Arena Stadium.

Verrall said she was "so grateful" they continued to go through with vaccination after "what would have been a very stigmatising experience". 

"I'm so pleased they did that and I'm very sorry that they had that experience and I certainly do not want anyone else to have that experience."

Regional Public Service commissioner Ezra Schuster said he was told about the incident from his community and has been working with the DHB to try and resolve the issue.

He said there was a "huge level of disappointment" and things needed to change.

Schuster said the Bay of Plenty DHB board had apologised for the hurt this would have caused.

In a Facebook statement late Sunday night, the DHB said it would work to ensure the same mistake didn't happen again.

"We unreservedly apologise for the distress and hurt caused to our Pasifika community as a result of a request for passports to be presented at Covid-19 vaccination appointments. This is not our policy, nor a requirement, and we are deeply disappointed that this has happened.

"Our commitment is to ensure that we address the issues that led to this failure and ensure it absolutely does not happen again.

"We acknowledge, with regret, that this incident has affected trust and confidence in us among our Pasifika community. We have written to, and spoken with, our Pasifika provider partner today to express our apologies directly."

The Government has made it clear that anyone, resident or not, is able to be vaccinated.

The Associate Health Minister also apologised to a group of Pasifika asked to present passports before getting their Covid-19 jabs in the Bay of Plenty.