Gotcha Shots Toks?

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When the Vahefonua Tonga o Aoteara (VTOA) youth convenors did a shout out to their youth leaders to come up with some novel ideas and initiatives to encourage uptake of the Covid-19 vaccination in the Pasifika youth community, they didn’t imagine that the call to action would generate a huge swell of internet and social media activity, and culminate in almost 1,500 people rolling up their sleeves for a shot.

Over the weekend of 1 and 2 October a huge team of volunteers and members of the Tongan Health Society worked tirelessly and enthusiastically to vaccinate – and entertain – the many people who turned up at the pop-up vaccination clinic at Lotofale’ia Tongan Methodist Parish.

Teukialupe (Lupe) Havea, a youth leader from Epsom Methodist Church, was part of the team involved in the project. The starting point involved looking at the barriers to vaccination uptake amongst the community and then devising ways to address the issues and encourage people to get vaccinated.

Lupe says, “We asked what was holding youth back? Misinformation on social media and choosing to trust unreliable information were factors. They (youth) are not always proactive in doing research and tend to see –and believe – what is readily available. We decided we could counter that with a targeted campaign providing accurate information, delivered by people youth could trust. “Sup Toko” became a catch phrase to attract attention to a comprehensive online youth show in the lead up to the Gotcha Shots Toks? vaccination event. The campaign involved live Facebook and Instagram feeds, chat groups and online links to regular presentations by people with mana and credibility in the community.

VTOA leaders from Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch were involved in all aspects of the campaign, collaborating daily via Zoom, Facebook and Messenger as they promoted the Auckland weekend-long, drive-through vaccination clinic. The turnout for the heavily promoted Gotcha Shots Toks? event exceeded all expectations. “We had people waiting up to three hours. Many youth leaders were floating around, offering prizes, goody bags and water, playing music, clapping and keeping the people entertained. We had music and dancing, DJ Freddie and Youth Convenor ‘Osaiasi Kupu on the microphone, grocery vouchers and giveaways. It was so much fun and it was encouraging for attendees to see our leaders participating – it made them feel more comfortable,” Lupe says.

More information can be found on the ‘Sup Toko Youth Show’ Facebook and Instagram pages.