Pasifika ministers won't 'isolate' church-goers for refusal of COVID-19 vaccine

Pasifika churches in New Zealand have assured their congregations they won’t “isolate” them if they refuse to take the COVID-19 vaccine.

It comes as nine ministers from the Ekalesia Faapotopotoga Kerisiano Samoa (EFKS) Synod were in line to take their first jab at the Otara Vaccination Centre.

EFKS Sandringham minister Reverend Featunai Liuaana says he’s talked with his congregation about the possible consequences of not taking the COVID-19 vaccine.

“We don’t isolate them, we try to get everybody else to be vaccinated, but at least there’s protection there for those who have been vaccinated.

“Hopefully by seeing the number of people that have been vaccinated, they can actually reexamine their thinking about whether or not to get vaccinated.”

More than 100 people from several denominations received their jab, including the ministers, their families and some members of their congregations.

Liuaana says some churches have not seen full attendance because of hesitancy and fear around the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have people who want to come to church, but they fear because other people are not vaccinated, they might catch Covid, so if we can get everybody vaccinated, then they are comfortable to come back.

“Churches are their villages. This is where they feel comfort and share their experience, especially the elderly who find coming to church a very comforting thing for them. Spiritual life is all they have.”

On the vaccination itself, Liuaana says the jab was a lot better than expected.

“We were talking about whether we were doing the right thing. A bit of anxiety, a bit of fear was coming through, not knowing what it was going to be like. We had a bit of humour just to get us through.

“One of the fears that a lot of people have is that pain that you have when you have the needle going through, like our congregation, there’s quite a few of them who are afraid of the needle.

“But having to talk to them that it was nothing, couldn’t even feel it really, might be something to push them along just to get over that fear.”

Liuaana is confident having the ministers get their jab will send a good message to the masses, but is cautious they’ll still be some skeptics out there.

“A lot of our people have been put off by the misinformation and especially a lot of them have been getting this mail through the mailbox by those who are against the vaccination and it’s not helping.

“I don’t think fear should be the thing that should determine whether you have a vaccination or not, but it should be well-informed.

“I think we’ve got a good system where there’s good information out there but because of the misinformation, it seems to be a lot more in front of you all the time and that’s causing a lot of problems.”

Liuaana is encouraging more of his congregation to take up the vaccine, saying if they’re not doing it for themselves, to do it for their loved ones.

“Help your family and help those around you, your friends at work and everybody that surrounds you because after all, it’s not just coming back to church that matters, it’s your friends and visiting people that you are told not to visit because you might bring Covid so it’s a community thing.”

Invitations to receive the jab have gone out to older Pasifika and people in their households throughout Auckland, and people in South Auckland aged 65 and over.