Evidence at the start of the pandemic indicated that Māori and Pacific peoples were vulnerable to being disproportionately impacted and affected by COVID-19, indicating prioritisation with respect to COVID-19 vaccination and prevention efforts would be needed. Significant health inequities already existed for Māori and Pacific peoples prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, with the pandemic exacerbating pre-existing health inequities for vulnerable groups including Māori and Pacific peoples. An elimination strategy was pursued at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in Aotearoa/New Zealand, a suppression strategy was then followed later. The initial lockdown periods helped keep the SARS-CoV-2 virus away while trying to get people vaccinated once the COVID-19 vaccines became available in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Efforts to spread mis/disinformation about the SARS-CoV-2 virus and COVID-19 vaccines were initiated early during the COVID-19 outbreak. The purpose of this work was to focus upon the immunological areas pertaining to the COVID-19 vaccines, to ensure appropriate scientific communication approaches that would support the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out. This work involved the utilisation of an online videoconferencing tool to support urgent communication efforts for the general public and lay audiences that would also support the countering of mis/disinformation about the COVID-19 vaccines in particular. Those who participated responded positively and indicating this approach helped demystify COVID-19 vaccines, explained how they worked, and encouraged vaccination. This work showed how appropriately presented COVID-19 vaccine information in the online setting could help counter mis/disinformation efforts.

Wellington School of Medicine & Health Sciences, University of Otago.