Prioritising South Auckland for Covid-19 vaccine will keep the rest of NZ safe

Pasifika Medical Association (PMA) CEO, Debbie Sorensen, appeared on TVNZ’s Breakfast this morning, advocating for the South Auckland community to be a priority for the Covid-19 vaccination roll out plan, insisting that it will keep the rest of the country safe.

“What is clear is that the outbreaks are currently coming out of the south, if we get on top of that we can keep the rest of the country safe. This isn’t just about making sure that South Aucklanders are first, it’s about protecting the whole of New Zealand,” she told Breakfast host Jenny May Clarkson.

She also says priority vaccinations for South Auckland will help stop the harsh criticism the community has faced because of the most recent outbreaks.

“We understand that when people are frustrated and feeling anxious, they lash out. We need to do everything we can and to take measures to protect our community, both by having them vaccinated but also to protect them from the downstream effects of bullying and overt racism. The best way to do that is to have everyone vaccinated as quickly as we can.”

Government ministers and officials have met with Mrs. Sorensen and have been open and supportive of the wider South Auckland community being a priority for a vaccine.

“The border is in the heart of South Auckland. Many of our community people are servicing the airport, the quarantine facilities and providing support services to all of those agencies. Of course, we have high levels of intense housing, and we live in a connected community and have lots of families living in one space.

We also have communities that are burdened by high rates of non-communicable diseases, of diabetes, of cardiac illness and respiratory illnesses and low rates of health literacy and poor socio-economic outcomes. All of that combines with a real cauldron of potential risk.”

Mrs. Sorensen’s TV appearance followed another interview she gave to Radio New Zealand Morning Report this morning. She stressed that most of the Covid-19 messaging has been directed at mainstream New Zealand at the expense of vulnerable communities such as Pacific in South Auckland. 

She told Radio New Zealand that while the terminologies – like plus one contacts – might make sense to bureaucrats in Wellington, it might not be straight forward to families living in the suburbs.

“I think we need to test the assumptions that people have actually got the message. This is the issue about having multiple channels, multiple communication streams. There are lots of people sending out messages across all media platforms.

I don’t think it’s that clear for the regular person on the street of what they are required to do.”

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Date: Tuesday 02 March 2021