Upskilling . . . The Oamaru Pacific Island Community Group is creating opportunities for people to become Covid-19 vaccinators. Among those taking up the opportunity are (from left) vaccinator trainee Emily Fuluasou, OPICG Covid-19 vaccination navigator Jane Taafaki, and trainees Zeenat Kumar and Ulata Poasa. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE

The Oamaru Picific Community Group’s (OPICG) Covid-19 vaccination clinics have been about more than just administering the vaccine.

They have brought the community together, helped educate the community about the Covid-19 vaccination, and provided opportunities for people to upskill.

Through the OPICG clinics, Emily Fuluasou, Zeenat Kumar, Ulata Poasa and Fiaga Katalake have started training to become Covid-19 vaccinators.

Funded by the Ministry of Health, the four women are training under the Immunisation Advisory Council, completing online, first aid and practical courses, to be able to administer vaccinations under nurse supervision.

The trainees all had day-jobs within the healthcare sector, and training as vaccinators helped them add to their skillset.

OPICG Covid-19 vaccination navigator Jane Taafaki said having Pasifika people administering vaccines helped others in the Pacific Island community feel more comfortable getting them.

“The more Pasifika people see other Pasifika engaging in healthy behaviour, the more likely they are to give it a second thought and do it themselves,” Mrs Taafaki.

“We’re often reluctant to seek out preventive health measures.”

The trainees were enjoying the opportunity to support their community, and were helping spread the word about the importance of vaccinations.

“[Pasifika] live in homes with multiple families, so if something like Covid [was] to strike our community, it could be quite devastating.”

OPICG was also fighting against the spread of misinformation regarding the vaccine, and was trying to “role model” good health behaviour.

Ms Kumar said she had to convince family members, young and old, to be vaccinated, due to their hesitancy after receiving misinformation, or believing in home remedies.

Mrs Fuluasou said she wanted to become a vaccinator, as statistics showed Pasifika and Maori were more vulnerable, and she was passionate about healthcare.

The trainees would finish their course with a practical assessment at a vaccination clinic later this month.