For many in the community, COVID-19, and current alert levels in Auckland and around New Zealand has caused a certain level of uncertainty.
Co-founder of Pacific Pharmacists' Association (PPA) and Hillsborough-based Pharmacist Natalia Nu’u has seen how the Pacific community in Auckland has been challenged when it comes to everyday activities, like collecting medicine due to the restrictions in place.
“If anything lockdown has caused a lot of uncertainty for Pacific people and with our movements restricted it can be easy to be unsure as to whether your pharmacy will be open for you to access your medicine,” Natalia says.
Added to the uncertainty, some people are fearful of leaving the safety of their homes to collect their medicines, she adds.
“There is also always the issue of cost for our Pacific communities which can be compounded right now with the uncertainty of employment for some members of the community.”
Access is another challenge that already exists but getting to the pharmacy may be difficult during lockdown.
“Many of our Pacific people may be reliant on public transport and there can be some fear around using the bus and being in enclosed spaces with other people; and many people use pharmacies close to their workplace but due to many people working from home, they do not have the same easy access to their pharmacy.”
Despite the challenges and uncertainty felt in the community, Natalia and the PPA are urging Pacific people to stay on top of their medication or repeat prescriptions.
“The biggest risk is if our Pacific people run out of or stop taking their medicines,” Natalia says.
She says many of the medicines prescribed by doctors work best when they are taken every day, such as blood pressure medicines, which must be taken daily to lower blood pressure and keep hearts healthy.
“If you were to stop taking them then your blood pressure would rise again, and this could increase your risk of poor health and worst-case scenario you could have a heart attack.”
By staying on top of your medication and continuing to take them as instructed by your doctor you can be sure you are keeping healthy and looking after yourself.
Natalia says we know people with preexisting health conditions that are poorly controlled are at a higher risk of developing severe illness from COVID-19, so it is more important now than ever to keep taking your medicines as usual and stay healthy.
“Our goal is to reassure everyone your pharmacy is an essential service and you are still able to get your medicines from your pharmacy during lockdown.
“Your pharmacy may be working a little differently to ensure your safety and the safety of their staff, so it is best to call ahead before visiting your pharmacy.
“Also, there is no need to hoard or stockpile your medicines as there is enough medicine available (there may be a few exceptions that your pharmacist will supply as best they can).”
The PPA is focused on ensuring the Pacific community is informed and aware of what is available to them during lockdown, and it has collated basic information about pharmacy and accessing medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic online.
This information has been translated into nine Pacific languages, and is available HERE.