Vaccine 'change in mindset' needed - Pasifika leaders

Source: 1News

In what's been a huge week for change in the health system, Pasifika leaders are advocating for a change of mindset and tailored approaches to servicing their communities.

At the height of the pandemic, at-home vaccinations provided strong outcomes for Māori and Pasifika.

In the Wairarapa, this treatment model has been fine-tuned. As a result, the percentage of Pasifika vaccinated is some of the highest in the country.

The program was developed by the Pasifika O Wairarapa Charitable Trust, after Luther Toloa and other Pasifika leaders advocated for the Wairarapa District Health Board to work with them providing free at-home vaccinations to households in the region.

READ MORE: More work needed to protect Māori and Pasifika from Covid - expert

“It didn't make any sense to provide free flu vaccinations to 1 or 2 within the home, then leave the rest of the family exposed to the virus. So we grabbed an opportunity with the local DHB,” Toloa said.

But when it comes to helping their community, the trust’s work doesn’t end with vaccinations. They also provide necessities to families still struggling two and a half years after the start of the pandemic.

“The Pasifika community here got left behind. Despite what was said by those in charge or responsible for managing it locally.”

On the back of their success, and with some Pasifika populations struggling or isolated from traditional welfare providers, Toloa says this type of service approach, tailored to the needs and values of the community, should be the norm.

“My experience so far over the last two and a half years, shows some mindsets need to change in terms of how much value services ought to put on principles.”

“While you can rely to a certain degree to established institutions for Pasifika [such as] the churches, particularly in rural NZ, you have to go beyond that. It requires an extra effort by all those involved.

“You have to change your mindset, your practices to suit the people.”

Dr Colin Tukuitonga, from the Pacific Expert Advisory Group, agrees.

“I think it's a fantastic model… it’s absolutely what we need.”

“Families don't put things in a box and say, this box is for this, and that box is for that. When people interact with healthcare workers, they really want all of their issues sorted and our health system often can put people in different boxes.

And despite the high rates of their vaccination programme a lack of resources is forcing Toloa to cancel appointments, as health care staff struggle to deal with the demands and pressures of Covid and flu.

“You lose your credibility with the families. If you start postponing appointments because you haven't got the human resources.”

“Next time you ring them and say hey your Covid booster is available… they say ‘hey you guys never turn up.’”

“It'd take a while to earn that trust back.”