Church leaders key in sharing COVID vaccine message

Helpful Covid messaging from church leaders within the Pacific community has health officials singing their praises.

Both Pasifika Medical Association (PMA) general practitioner Dr Natalie Hopoi and New Zealand Director of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield say the church leaders have played an important role so far.

Their continued support will be needed to endorse the benefits of vaccinations, says Hopoi.

Hopoi, who is a leading Pacific doctor, completed her Master’s in Public Health at the University of Auckland in 2018. Her thesis focused on the role Samoan Methodist church ministers played in promoting health literacy within their congregation.

Hopoi says she chose this topic because she was raised in a Samoan speaking Methodist church herself and knows the church ministers’ influence in the community.

“The majority of Pacific people are Christian and rely on the messages received by their church ministers to make important health decisions for themselves and their families,” she says.

In her view it is important the ministers of Pacific Island communities are fully informed about the COVID-19 health guidelines and are educated about the vaccines, which arrived in New Zealand last week.

“With the current situation, our church ministers should be educated about the effects COVID-19 has on our community, especially now that the vaccines are available,” Hopoi says.

“It’s important that they understand the risks and benefits of the vaccine and are comfortable spreading that information to their congregation. This will hopefully increase the number of Pacific families wanting to get vaccinated,” she adds.

Bloomfield  is also impressed with the Pacific Church ministers’ help with Covid messaging. Last week he spoke at a national zoom talanoa attended by 600 Pacific church, community and youth leaders.

He said he was grateful for the work church leaders had done in helping spread the message about COVID-19 to the Pacific community.

“The important role faith-based organisations played in acting as an anchor in the Pacific and other communities across Aotearoa, helped us come together, not just around our faith but also in looking after and supporting each other,” Bloomfield said.

He also acknowledged the Pacific churches’ contribution during the second lockdown in August last year, when it was confirmed there were positive COVID-19 cases in the Pacific community.

“The way that churches and the Pacific community mobilised to support each other was part of our success of getting a good outcome,” he said.


Additional reading

News category: New Zealand.

Tags: , ,