Pacific sport stars get behind mass vaccination events in Auckland

Pacific sport stars are lending their hands to mass vaccination events in Auckland to get more youth and young adults vaccinated.

The 'Rally Your Village' initiative wrapped up at Auckland's Vodafone Events Centre yesterday, with more than 7000 people immunised over six days.

More events in the community are being organised, and former All Black Bradley Mika is among some of the sports stars making calls to encourage the unvaccinated to get a jab.

Former Manu Samoa halfback Junior Poluleuligaga is doing his bit to get the rugby community in south Auckland vaccinated.

For the past six days, the director of Papatoetoe Rugby Club has been on the phone calling members, encouraging them to make the most of the drive-thru events in Auckland.

"We have a profile within the community and if we can use it to influence our community in a really good way, to try to get them in to get vaccinated, then you know I think it's really important for us to use that," he said.

"We're just on our laptops and our phones and just posting messages on social media platforms and sending group emails out to different groups to encourage them and to let them know these avenues are here."

Former Samoa representative in touch and powerlifting, Fila Fuamatu, has been working closely with Pacific health provider South Seas and the AOG church who were part of the Auckland Covid cluster.

Fuamatu who works for the South Auckland NGO, The Cause Collective, said working collectively is providing feedback in the best way to approach Pacific communities.

"A crisis management team was created and it was the community that actually brought the system together, to work in a way that would get them receiving the services and the care that they needed," she said.

"You've got leaders of the community who know their people, that are able to have a database of everyone that is part of their church, sports team or whatever groups, and they rally their people to come through."

She said she's proud of what has been achieved so far.

"We often forget that we are part of a village and we carry on doing our own thing within our own famillies, but it's the village that will help us to get the support that we need."

'Rally your Village' has been a huge success for Pacific communities, who not only received a dose of the Pfizer vaccine, but also drove away with practical essentials.

Former Samoa women's international Cynthia Ta'ala-Timaloa helped pack food parcels.

The assistant coach of the Manusina team said there's been some criticism towards offering incentives when getting the jab, but the approach is working.

"The incentive is they come and get KFC or they come and get groceries or petrol vouchers, whatever it is, they're getting vaccinated for a good cause and that's great, so keep coming," she said.

"That's the way we host as Pacific Islanders, we do that with food and we do that with gifts so why not this way, and it's working."

Ezekiel NaTanielu and his three siblings received their first vaccination at the drive-thru event this week.

He said there was never any hesitancy around getting the jab, but the family were keen to get amongst the buzz.

"The vibe around here is cool too. We can hear Samoan songs while we wait and it just comes back to the culture and being part of that."

Another former Manu Samoa representative, and South Seas Health chief executive, Lemalu Silao Vaisola-Sefo, said getting sports leaders involved has helped drive the initiative within their communities and beyond.

He said they've engaged with people differently, and it's not only the Pacific community who have taken it on board.

"We've still got our Pacific people coming through but we're seeing a mixture between Pacific and also the Asian community coming through," he said.

"It just goes to show that if you give the community just that inch they'll take a mile and this is the fruits of it."

The 'Rally Your Village' event has proven community-led initiatives are working.

Fijians in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland are taking inspiration from their rugby sevens heroes to spread their message of vaccination against Covid-19 in Aotearoa New Zealand, while another Pacific-focused pop-up event is being organised to take place in Manurewa this weekend.



Photo: South Seas Healthcare  Caption: Former Manusina captain Cynthia Ta'ala-Timaloa is among some of the sport leaders getting behind community and youth-led vaccination events.