Thursday, December 9

Covid-19 vaccination: Pasifika community ‘disappointed and angry’ after passport applications


A Pacific community worker says the Bay of Plenty DHB’s apology for applying for passports prior to vaccination is “passive-aggressive” and racist. The Pacific Peoples deputy said it should never have happened.

People waiting their turn at the vaccination center at the Trusts Arena.

A self-service vaccination center in Auckland.
Photo: RNZ / Nick Monro

The Bay of Plenty District Board of Health yesterday apologized for wrongly requesting passports from Pacific people in line to receive the Covid-19 vaccine.

While it is not necessary to show identification to receive a vaccine, some members of the Pasifika community say they were asked to present their passports to get a vaccine in the Bay of Plenty.

The DHB said that requiring a passport for identification is not a policy or a requirement to get vaccinated.

He says he is committed to ensuring this does not happen again.

But a Pacific community worker in the Bay of Plenty, Emmaline Pickering Martin, said the apology is really a non-apology and called it racist.

” Passive-aggressive ‘, sorry, we didn’t mean it’ racism. Who is in charge here and why are these public health messages not free of racism? The entire CIR system was created so that vaccinating our people was fast and efficient and no one had to prove anything. We wanted to cover the entire population, so in terms of the community reaction, everyone is tired, disappointed and angry. ”

Tauranga Pacific Island Community Trust CEO Esther Martin did not believe there was a community backlash that would deter people from wanting to get vaccinated.

In any case, our families should be encouraged and go ahead and get vaccinated. Go to places where you feel comfortable. ”

Local MP, Todd Muller of National, was very surprised to hear that passports were requested.

” I reflected on my own pretty seamless process of getting my first jab a few weeks ago and I just shook myself, said who I was and my date of birth and where I lived and that was it.

“The reason they would suddenly need to present a passport seems to be sending the wrong message, frankly, particularly at a time when we need everyone to move and get vaccinated and not put obstacles in front of people.”

Pacific Peoples Minister Aupito William Sio said it appeared to have been an isolated incident, but should never have happened.

He said it caused anguish and pain within the Pacific community.

” I will accept that this is somewhat unique, but that it results in a loss of confidence in the system. The CEO has apologized to the Pacific community. I want to make sure everyone knows that there are no requirements and that we can move on. ”

Auckland’s South Seas CEO Silao Vaisola Sefo believes confusion around some Pacific names, particularly Samoan, could have been the reason the passports were requested.

” Some of our families have different names, so they could have a title. They may have a primary name that does not match the name on their birth certificate or driver’s license or passports. That will be the only reason why. ”

Later this afternoon, Chief Health Officer Dr. Ashley Bloomfield said the vaccines were available to anyone on New Zealand soil.

” The process of assigning someone an NHI number can be sped up by someone who has identification and as I understand it in this case, this is what you were looking for.

“I just want to reiterate that no one is required to show a passport or other form of identification and that everyone in New Zealand is eligible to get vaccinated, whatever their immigration status.”

Fijian Rotumans were among those who were asked to present their passports at vaccination centers in the Bay of Plenty, Auckland and Wellington..

Community leader Fesaitu Solomone said there is no need to segregate people.

“If we are talking about a team of 5 million people in our country, we should not be looking to segregate our people, especially when we are all trying to work together in the same space.”

Solomone said that double standards were practiced when the Pasifika were detained and interrogated during the confinement, but said the same is not done with other ethnic groups.

The Bay of Plenty District Board of Health said it fully understands the pain the Pacific Community felt after 16 members were asked for their passports at a vaccination center on Friday.

Its chief executive, Pete Chandler, said that when a staff member did not find National Health numbers for the group, the person requested their passports in order to create files.

He said it was a mistake and that the application was not to prove any residency status or eligibility.

Chandler said no one in the group was denied the vaccine.

He said that the DHB recognizes and understands that for the Pacific community it would have been a trigger and a new wound from the wounds of the past.


www.rnz.co.nz

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