Tackling vaccine hesitancy with patience, laughter and a listening ear
George Kingi was nominated as an Awesome Aucklander by his partner, Teah Carlson. She wrote to us that she loves his ability to help people “from all walks of life feel at ease” when getting the COVID-19 vaccine – from scared 12-year-olds, to gang members, to people resistant to getting the vaccine.
Teah lights up when she talks about George, his ability to connect with others, and his passion for helping whānau and addressing inequities.
But what makes George’s mahi particularly awesome is that he’s pretty new to the vaccination game – he’s what’s known as a lay vaccinator – trained to administer the COVID-19 vaccination in these special circumstances (under the supervision of healthcare professionals) with Waipareira Trust.
George had only just started his job at Waipareira Trust as a workforce development project lead when the August 2021 lockdown hit, and the entire Trust workforce was redeployed to support the COVID-19 vaccination effort. George was ready to do whatever was needed to support his community.
Since then, he’s travelled to the far North and around South Auckland, administering vaccines, registering people, delivering encouragement and a cheeky grin, and, as Teah says, “winning the hearts of people with his patience, laughter and gentle nature.”
George and Teah (Te Whānau a Apanui and Ngāti Porou) are a strong team, working together to help their three boys through the uncertainties of the extended lockdown.
George has been working very long days, helping people facing “so much uncertainty and fear,” he says. “You can see it on their faces when they come in, unsure if this is right for them.”
George sees his job is to ensure people have a positive experience, to make sure their questions are answered, and that they know they are listened to and understood.
“I started asking people questions, finding out where they’re from, connecting with them,” he says. “I let them know we’ll go at their time, when they’re ready. And I’ll tell them about how many people we’ve seen, how to make it easier – just wriggle your toes, wriggle your nose! Some humour helps.” And, soon, he realised this helped people to have a better experience.
Teah says George brings this thoughtfulness home with him, where she spent lockdown working from home with their three boys, her brother, and George’s mum, who came to stay with them after a routine operation went awry and she needed some special care and aroha.
Teah, a community psychologist, says lockdown was hard with so many things to juggle, but seeing George step up at home and at mahi fills her with pride.
“He’ll work a 14-hour day, and then come home, spend time with the boys, spend time with me, and then he goes and sits with his mum and talks with her and rubs her feet,” she says. “He’s such a great role model for our boys.”
Tāmaki Pūkenga Rau