Appeal for church leaders to combat vaccine hesitancy among Sydney’s Pacific Islander Community

July 2021

Pacific Islander Church leaders must do more to promote vaccination among their communities – many of whom are in Sydney’s hardest hit pandemic zones – to combat high rates of vaccination hesitancy.

Uniting Church minister, Alimoni Taumoepeau, who is from Tonga, warned that Pacific Islander communities were less likely to heed government-sponsored campaigns to promote COVID-19 vaccinations and instead were being swayed by conspiracy theories.

“Church leaders can play a really powerful role in promoting the importance of vaccination, they are able to breakthrough to a community that is often in the thrall of conspiracy theories,” Rev. Taumoepeau said.  

“Pacific Islanders are broadly more conservative in their religious beliefs and they are listening to conspiracy theories that link anti-COVID-19-initiatives to biblical references to end times in which government seeks to increase control over people.

“Yet there is no biblical argument against the COVID-19 vaccine or the government-imposed lockdowns.”

Rev. Taumoepeau works with culturally and linguistically diverse communities as part of Uniting’s Mission and Education unit. He is a former minister of  Strathfield-Homebush Uniting Church.

The Moderator of the Uniting Church (NSW & ACT), Rev. Simon Hansford, has appealed to church leaders to do what they can to overcome COVID-19 misinformation and vaccine hesitancy

“There is a concern, especially in culturally and linguistically diverse communities, that many people are being misled, or misinformed, about vaccination and COVID-19.  This, among other issues, is leading to their hesitancy about receiving vaccination,” he said

Rev. Hansford has appealed for church leaders to share on social media when they receive their vaccination, as part of a campaign to reduce vaccine hesitancy in faith communities.  

When Rev. Taumoepeau received his second AstraZeneca jab two weeks ago, he posted a message in Tongan on social media based on John 10:10.

“This verse talks about the thief that comes steal and kill and destroy … this pandemic is stealing and killing and destroying and the vaccine is a key to our freedom from it,” he said.

“Hearing this message from church leaders can play a powerful role in overcoming misinformation and vaccine hesitancy in culturally and linguistically diverse communities.”

There are Pacific Island populations in those areas of Sydney worst affected by COVID-19 such as Liverpool, Canterbury-Bankstown, Blacktown, Campbelltown and Fairfield. These communities also have very strong family ties so lockdowns that keep families apart are incredibly stressful for this community

ENDS

Rev. Taumoepeau and Rev. Hansford are available for comment.

For media enquiries, contact Martin Thomas on  0477 340 704

Hear the conversation between Rev Taumoepeau and the Moderator here