Addressing COVID-19 concerns in Pacific Islander communities

Last updated: Apr 22, 2021
We answer common questions those in Pacific Islander communities may have.

Highlights

  • COVID-19 is a serious threat that has deeply impacted Pacific Islander communities.
  • The vaccines have been tested with Pacific Islander populations.
  • The vaccines have been reviewed by experts.
  • All the vaccines are equally safe and effective.
  • The vaccines keep people from getting sick and dying.
  • Getting vaccinated protects the whole community.
  • The vaccine is available to everyone over 16, though people in high-risk categories should get vaccinated first.
  • The vaccines are free for everyone – regardless of immigration status or insurance.
  • Appointments can be scheduled online or by phone. Translation services are also available.

COVID-19 vaccines are now available to most Californians. For some, this might bring a sense of relief. For others, there still may be concerns about getting vaccinated. Some people from certain racial and ethnic groups may hesitate to seek care. This may be due to distrust of government and healthcare systems that have been responsible for inequities in treatment.

Pacific Islander communities have had some of the highest rates of infection and death during the pandemic. The death rate for Pacific Islanders in California is 32% higher than the statewide average. This is the most out of proportion of any population in the state. In L.A. County, the percentage of Pacific Islander residents dying is 2.5 times more than any other group. That’s the largest percentage across the board.

Because of these concerns, many doctors, scientists, and health experts have created resources to help address questions. Here are a few of the experts and groups working towards equity within Pacific Islander communities. Their work helps bring concerns Pacific Islander residents may have to the state and national level.

  • The Pacific Islander Center of Primary Care Excellence created the Pacific Islander COVID-19 Response Team, a group of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) researchers, health experts, community leaders, and advocates. This team is led by Dr. Raynald Samoa, who was essential for creating the initial plan to slow and stop the spread and increase testing.
  • Dr. Sheri-Ann Daniels, the Executive Director at Papa Ola Lokahi, a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving Native Hawaiian health and well-being, has worked tirelessly over the past year as a co-lead of the Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islander Hawaiʻi COVID-19 Response, Recovery & Resilience Team.
  • ‘Ofa Mann, President and Founder of TOFA (To’utupu’o e ‘Otu Felenite Association) Inc. TOFA is educating families from places such as Fiji, Samoa, Tonga, and the Marshall Islands about how to prevent COVID-19 transmission.
  • The Southern California Pacific Islander COVID-19 Response Team (SoCal PICRT) is a group of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander community-based organizations and advocates. They are providing resources and information to Pacific Islander communities all over Southern California.

In addition to listening to these experts, it may be helpful to get more information from a family doctor or a community-based organization, such as SoCal PICRT.

Are the vaccines safe for everyone?

Some people may wonder if the vaccines are safe for everyone. The National Council of Asian Pacific Islander Physicians and the Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum promote the collective interests of Pacific Islander physicians and their patients. Both organizations agree the vaccines are safe. They also both encourage vaccination within Pacific Islander communities.

Diversity in clinical trials is important. This makes sure that vaccines are safe for everyone. The clinical trials for all the approved vaccines showed that the vaccines were safe for all participants. In addition, Pacific Islander populations were represented in all of the vaccine clinical trials.

  • Moderna – 0.2% identified as Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
  • Pfizer-BioNTech – 0.2% percent identified as Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander
  • Johnson & Johnson (Janssen) – 0.2% identified as Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander

Learn more about the vaccines' safety and effectiveness.

Are all the vaccines equal? Is one better than the other?

All the vaccines are very effective in preventing COVID-19. They also protect against severe illness, hospitalization, and death. In the trials, all three vaccines resulted in zero deaths or hospitalizations.

These numbers are quite high for vaccines. To give some perspective, flu shots are typically only 40 to 60% effective.

For more details, read our vaccine FAQs.

What are the benefits of getting vaccinated?

The vaccines are key for helping to end the pandemic. They offer protection from a life-threatening virus. They can keep people from getting sick. Or if someone does catch the virus, they can reduce the severity of symptoms and prevent hospitalization and death. They also protect against the potential long-term health effects of the virus.

Getting vaccinated might also help reduce the risk of and spread of new COVID-19 variants. These are new strains of the virus. Much is still unknown about the variants. But vaccinating is one powerful tool to help protect against the COVID-19 variants.

Is it possible to wait a little longer before getting vaccinated?

The CDC says fully vaccinated people can now visit other fully vaccinated people indoors with no masks or social distancing. So the sooner everyone gets the vaccine, the sooner everyone can see friends and family safely. With each day that passes without getting vaccinated, there is more risk of catching COVID-19. Also, it will take longer to reach herd immunity.

Some people may think those who are vaccinated can’t spread the virus. This may not be true. Scientists still don’t yet know how well the vaccine stops people from spreading the virus. That means unvaccinated people could still be at risk. The virus spreads even when people don’t have symptoms.

Who should get vaccinated as soon as possible?

The vaccines are available to everyone 16 and older. But getting vaccinated is very important for those in the high-risk categories below. People in these groups have a higher risk of hospitalization or death.

For specific conditions or other concerns, a family doctor, pharmacist, or community health center may have more information.

Remember: the vaccine is free for everyone – regardless of immigration status or insurance.

What’s the easiest way to get a COVID-19 vaccine?

The easiest way to stay up to date in California is to sign up on the My Turn website. Vaccine appointments can be made through the site. If needed, it may be helpful to ask a family member, friend, or community leader to help set up an appointment on the My Turn site. Initial supplies are limited, so there might be fewer appointments available at this time. There will be more available in the coming months.

Those who don’t have access to a smartphone, the internet, or email can call the California COVID-19 Hotline at (833) 422-4255. Translation services are also available in more than 250 languages. The hotline is available Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

A family doctor or healthcare provider can also help. They might be providing the vaccine. They might also know when the vaccine is available in certain areas.

Still have questions?

Learn more at the resources below:

Ready to schedule an appointment for a vaccine?

Sign up on My Turn

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