WEST VALLEY CITY, Utah — With Utah’s coronavirus vaccination effort underway, Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians are desperate to get access to it.
“The statistics show that we are as Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the state of Utah, we have the highest infection rate. We also have the second highest hospitalization rate,” said Anapesi Kaili.
Kaili is the director and principal at Mana Academy Charter School in West Valley City. According to statistics, 85% of her student are Pacific Islanders, and many live with an elderly family member at high risk of contracting the virus.
“Many of them have experienced just the deaths in the family due to COVID-19.” said Kaili.
On Saturday, Kaili is opening the school to family members 70 and older who want to get vaccinated. The school has teamed with Utah Pacific Islander Health Coalition, the National Tongan American Society and Salt Lake County Health department.
“What we are finding is that many of them they have questions in the beginning like what is this going to be like? What are the side effects?” said Kaili.
Misconceptions, access, and language barriers make it harder for these groups to fight the pandemic.
“One of the things we are doing this Saturday that’s so important is that we are providing language translation in Samoan, Tongan, Marshallese, Spanish, and also in Maori,” said Kaili.
Meleseini Tausinga has been looking forward to receiving the vaccination.
Tausinga's daughter was hospitalized with the virus. The 73-year-old has heart issues and is following her cardiologists advice to get the vaccine.
“Oh yeah, my children they want me to take care of my life cause they want me to see their children growing up so they really want me to take it.”