Samoan faith community organizes COVID-19 vaccine clinics in Medford

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When it comes to vaccine distribution, the Medford Samoan Faith Mission is doing its part to help reduce the incidences of COVID-19 among its people.

Recently, Pastor Tau Moli worked with community partners to put on a vaccine distribution clinic in the parking lot of Medford First UMC, specifically targeting members of the Samoan and Pacific Islander communities in Jackson County. Moli serves Canyonville and Myrtle Creek UMCs and the Samoan Faith Mission, 

“The vaccine is about protecting life,” said Moli.

According to data from Oregon Health Authority, vaccination rates among Pacific Islanders are the highest in the state. But Pacific Islanders also have the highest hospitalization rate from COVID-19 in the state. The Washington State Department of Health reports that the death rate among Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islanders is the highest of any ethnic group, six times higher than for those who are white.

Moli said the first clinic on Sept. 19 was a partnership between the church, Oregon Health Authority, Samoa Pacific Development Corporation and Utopia PDX. The goal was to provide the first dose to unvaccinated Samoan and Pacific Islanders in Jackson County and culturally specific information about the virus.

Moli said they are providing food and monetary incentives to encourage more people to come to the next drive-up clinic, held on Oct. 10.

Moli, a Samoan himself, said there is some skepticism about the virus and vaccines. People from Island countries such as Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, and more are not used to having regular check-ups with a doctor. So, having a conversation with a primary care provider – as has been a messaging point of public health campaigns – about the vaccine isn’t always culturally relevant to Pacific Islanders.

“When you’re on the edge of living, people have to force you to go to the doctor,” Moli said. “Here in the western world, we have that kind of frame of mind.”

Moli and his daughter, Crater Lake District Lay Leader Soteria Galo, worked to get flyers in the hands of their community and used word of mouth to get 14 people to the first vaccine clinic. He’s hopeful those individuals will return for their second dose, along with others who come in for their first dose.

“The main ministry of our church is to protect life,” Moli said. “We have to make sure people are taking care of themselves.”

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