Vax events become celebrations as people get vaxxed for Christmas


Churches, sports groups, Pasifika communities and youth groups held Covid Vaccination events across Auckland over the weekend, encouraging everyone to get vaxxed for Christmas.

It was the last weekend people could have their first vax and still have the necessary three-week period between doses before Christmas.

Many vax centres were in South Auckland, where 90 percent of Pacific people have had their first dose and 80 percent are fully vaccinated.

Many factors – particularly church leadership – helped South Auckland’s vaccine-hesitant come forward.

Seeing the effects of the virus first-hand and knowing many people who have been vaccinated safely also encouraged people – as did some outright bribery in the form of prizes and gifts.

Among the centres people flocked to was one hosted by 25 Catholic churches. They came together for a big pop-up event in Māngere, involving youth groups and 120 volunteers.

Another centre was the Tokaikolo ‘Ia Kalaisi church in Māngere Bridge, which has been considered anti-vax.

It is, in fact, pro-vax. So much so, it surveyed its members’ vax status (most are vaxxed), strategically developed an events’ programme to encourage its remaining 200 unvaccinated members to get their first dose – and at the same time reframed the anti-vax perceptions of the church.

At that event church leaders and members showed their support for getting vaccinated. They lined the entrance way to the church, waving Tongan, Niuean, Fiji and Cook Islands flags; music blasted as people waited in line for their vaccination.

Senior church minister Viliami Mapapalangi, who was on MC duties thanked church members as they left after being vaccinated.

“How I’m feeling, I know God is here. It’s a great blessing, it’s a great privilege for all of us to be here to be support.

“It’s very emotional for us, I’m really happy seeing how the Tongan people come to support what the government needs for everyone here. It’s a blessing.”

Another church leader said: “These are the real hard to reach … and to get such an opportunity is actually quite significant. It sends a strong signal, that it’s actually safe, and you get vaccinated to keep you safe, and your family, but also our village as well.”

Early on, he said some members of the church had used scripture to dismiss and discredit the work of the vaccinations.

Today, leaders and church members wear shirts with the scripture ‘Aisea 1: 19-20’ and the word ‘Talangofua’.

“When the church leadership decided on a name for the programme, they came up with the name ‘Talangofua’ which literally means obedience. The verse … talks about being obedient to your leadership,” he said.

Auckland vaccination programme director Matt Hannant is still urging people who haven’t braved the vax to give it a go and get vaxxed for Christmas. With the Auckland border opening up on December 15, people would be counting down the days until they could be reunited with whānau for Christmas.

“Let’s make this Christmas as safe as possible for our loved ones by getting both doses in time for the festivities. This is the last weekend to ensure that you’ll be fully vaccinated before the holiday season,” he says.


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News category: New Zealand.