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(AUSTRALIA) #Coronavirus Report: Mele Ngauamo is often on the forefront of what is happening in Pacific communities: Every week she gets on the air with the online community radio station and broadcaster Pasifika TV and Radio with her “nostalgia program” which centers around faith, music, and memories #AceHealthDesk report

#CoronavirusNewsDesk says her audience is in Brisbane, Tonga, and around the world and local media reports that Queensland’s Pacific leaders push for hesitant community members to get vaccinated against #COVID19 Over the last years, she has seen a worrying trend: conspiracy theories around the #COVID19 vaccine which play on people’s faith.

Mele is wearing a red flower and red necklace. She's pictured sitting with two boys and another woman.
Mele Ngauamo (right) wants the community to be confident that Covid-19 vaccinations are safe and do not go against their faith.(Supplied)

“Because we are a very strong, deep religious people, it has affected beliefs,” Ms Ngauamo said.

Two women sit at church as camera's film.
Ms Ngauamo  said over the last few months there has been an increasing prevalence of misinformation spreading between community members on social media.(Supplied)

“If a minister tells you this is the way forward they’ll believe it, but sadly there have been mixed feelings.”

On her program, in which she regularly speaks to church leaders from Brisbane’s Tongan congregations, she receives messages from people who say she shouldn’t be encouraging people to take the vaccine.

She said social media has fuelled conspiracies that the vaccine goes against God and is unsafe.

“Our Kingdom, our governance, and the stakeholders are trying to persuade our people to come forward and to vaccinate,” she said.

“It’s just not about you. It’s about you, your family, and the whole community as a whole.

“This will be a thing that will tie us all together as one people, coming forward to make a safe and happy environment.”

This month the broadcaster launched a campaign to educate.

With videos in Tongan and Samoan, the campaign pulls on the heartstrings and uses humour to encourage Pacific communities to get vaccinated.

One of the videos features a husband and wife at church.

When the husband says he doesn’t want to be told by the government what to do, his wife puts him in his place and tells him she is “his boss” and she wants him to get vaccinated.

Another shows families being reunited at airports with the slogan “protect your loved ones”.

“The vaccine has come out, and it is done by people who are trained and qualified to put this forward and put it together and we know that it is safe,” she said.

This weekend the Brisbane Tongan Community, with the support of the broadcaster, is hosting a vaccination day.

“That’s our passport to open up the border and you get to go and see your loved ones and family overseas.”

Jabbed, packed and ready to go

A screenshot of Aii Aiga sitting at church from a video,
Samoan community leader and broadcaster Aiga Aii played the wife of a man who had heard the vaccination was dangerous(Supplied)

Aiga Aii, who stars as the wife in the Samoan language video, said families had been hurting over the last two years being separated from loved ones abroad.

She said she got vaccinated in preparation that she could travel overseas and hopes she will be able to visit her daughter in Dubai next year before heading to Samoa to visit her family.

“Even though we talk on the phone and on Zoom almost every day, getting there face to face to them is different,” Ms Aii said.

She said that international travel is particularly important for Pacific people who have family all around the world.

“I’m looking forward for the borders to be open so that we can all go and see our children and our families back home.”

She said she had taken part in the promotional video to try and help her community and those who may be reluctant to get vaccinated.

In the video, her husband and her are sitting in church.

When he tells her he has heard the vaccine could harm him and he might die, she responds that his life is in the hands of God and the vaccine is safe.

In the Tongan version of the video, the wife tells the husband that he shouldn’t be worried about “government control” as she is “his boss” and the only one who could control him.

“To get vaccinated is something for you and something for your family,” she said.

“We have our families to look after and if we are unwell then our families will be unwell as well.”

A way to care for your fellow man

Reverend Maile Molitika sitting in front of glass stained window, wearing a grey jacket and traditional dress.
Reverend Maile Molitika said the last two years has been especially hard for Pacific community members who have not been able to visit loved ones back on the Islands.(ABC News: Baz Ruddick)

Reverend Maile Molitika is the resident minister of the Uniting Church Australia Tongan Congregation at Highgate Hill in Brisbane.

This Saturday his church will be hosting a vaccination day with the support of the Brisbane Tongan Community and Pasifika TV and Radio.

He said when organising the vaccination day he approached other Pacific church leaders to encourage their congregations to attend.

“”There are some people that are really, really against this vaccination and they tell social media that it is evil, that it is something to limit the population of the world and it has been connected with evil and that sort of stuff,” he said.

“Social media is very powerful with distributing all this information.”

He said talking about the vaccination in Tongan communities and Pacific communities widely have been sensitive and he was concerned about the influence of people who hold anti-vax beliefs.

Mele Ngauamo sitting outside a tan brick building, looking to the right.
Reverend Molitika said misinformation about vaccinations is damaging the Tongan and Pacific communities.(ABC News: Baz Ruddick)

He said as a Uniting Church minister he has encouraged others to get vaccinated as part of their faith.

“We have to do the right thing and make sure that everyone is safe,” he said.

“For me, this vaccination is just the same as other vaccinations that have been coming to Tonga — like for polio and others.”

He said has concerns that if Pacific community members are remaining unvaccinated they may not be able to go home to visit family and friends.

“It has been very hard for the last two years. People have been stuck here for two years. They were supposed to go home, but because of the limits of aircraft they have been postponed,” she said.

“They miss their family and it will get worse if people don’t get vaccinated.

“I hope that people understand that by doing this this is a way of returning to normal”.

#AceHealthDesk report …………Published: Nov.28: 2021:

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