Seeing people realise their individual actions can impact the greater good of the Pacific community in Aotearoa – and the rest of New Zealand - has been a highlight of the National Pacific Zoom Fono for Dr Apisalome Talemaitoga (pictured).
A General Practitioner in Christchurch and South Auckland, Fijian-born Kiwi Dr Api, who he is widely known as, has recently been assisting the Ministry of Health with the COVID-19 vaccination information programmes it is rolling out.
The MoH programmes are being delivered via various Zoom meetings, and face to face on a roadshow visiting Pacific communities around New Zealand.
During April, a National and Ethnic-Specific Pacific Zoom Fono was staged, jointly facilitated by MoH and the Ministry for Pacific Peoples, and Dr Api was an integral part of the event.
“I coordinated the panel of Pacific clinicians who, alongside me, can explain and answer questions about the vaccine, the safety, how it works and what side effects to expect from it,” Dr Api says.
Pacific clinicians and representatives from Pacific Providers such as Pasifika Futures, Le Va, The Fono, Vaka Tautua, and South Seas Health Care contributed advice as people online asked questions about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Meanwhile, Minister for Pacific Peoples and Associate Minister of Health Hon Aupito William Sio also spoke briefly at the event.
Dr Api says safety concerns were a major topic of conversation during the fono.
“This is totally expected as it is a new vaccine being administered to people.
“The Pacific community also asked about eligibility, side effects and whether there was any interaction with other medications.”
While the National Pacific Zoom Fono was staged in English, it was followed by smaller ethnic specific fono running simultaneously, in nine Pacific languages.
Events like these are vital as it is important for members of the various Pacific communities in New Zealand to see and hear information from someone who looks and sounds like them, and who may even answer the questions in their native tongue, Dr Api says.
It also provides a lot of reassurance, which is huge when it comes to something like a new vaccine, he adds.
“Our people left the fono feeling reassured about the safety of the vaccine and how best to play their part in terms of supporting community immunity.
“Another take-away we pushed at the fono, is for attendees to visit a trusted source for more information such as their GP, Pharmacist or the Unite Against Covid-19 website.”
The ability to connect with people so they can understand and answer the burning questions they have has been a highlight of Dr Api’s fono experiences, he says.
“Along with seeing people when they realise, they can do their part for the greater good of the Pacific community and for all of Aotearoa.”
On May 5, Pacific young people are invited to take part in an upcoming Youth Zoom fono, scheduled at 6pm.
This is an opportunity to hear from a panel of Pacific clinicians about the latest information on vaccinations for COVID-19.
Have your questions ready to ask at the Youth Zoom Fono, or email [email protected] prior to the fono.