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Pacific Immunologist warns Covid is still with us

Alakihihifo Vailala

The country is experiencing a fifth wave of Covid-19, and Pacific people are being hospitalised at a rate fifty-percent higher than Europeans.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

“Covid is still with us” is what an award winning Pacific immunologist and health expert says as New Zealand experiences its fifth wave of Covid-19.

Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu is an immunologist and an associate at the University of Otago, Wellington.

Speaking on PMN Tonga, Sika-Paotonu says hospitalizations for Pacific people in New Zealand have been much higher than they have been for other groups.

“Even though we are in the middle of the summer months, we need to remember that Covid is still with us, but also that it can have an unequal or disproportionate impact on Maori and Pacific people."

As new variants of the Covid virus emerge, she says it’s vital to address inequities within the health system along with fighting Covid in order to move forward.

Newer variants of the Omicron family, Sika-Paotonu says, can easily spread and cause severe sickness.

“These variants carry a high number of mutations on the spike protein which is how it gets into cells and causes infection."

Sika-Paotonu says vaccinations, testing and mask wearing are still important to prevent the increase of Covid infections.

“Ensuring that we are up to date with our Covid-19 vaccines, our boosters and that we are still testing. Also, that we have access to masks, antiviral medications, all of these things collectively are going to be really important for managing and for dealing with Covid-19 moving forward."

“Especially at this time, the holidays, we congregate together. The church services and family events. We’re very communal people as Pacific people and the important thing to remember is that Covid is still here in our community."

Watch the full talanoa with Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu below:

Hero Image: Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu is an immunologist and an associate at the University of Otago, Wellington. Photo/ Supplied

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