Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Virus survivor on a mission to get people vaccinated

Tuala Tagaloa Tusani is a Covid-19 survivor.

It is a fact he does not take lightly, given the hell he and his family endured when all four of them contracted the virus the whole world is fighting.

These days, he gets tired easily and more frequently.

It used to be hard to breathe, let alone speak; and his diet has changed – with his favourite V fizzy drinks and pies now taking a firm step back in a bid to keep his health in check.

He lost 10kg lying in a hospital bed – some of that time in intensive care – and the bruises on his body are only just starting to fade.

Despite all that, Tuala has made it his mission to share his story in an effort to get more people vaccinated, particularly in the Samoan and wider Pacific communities.

“I’m not 100 per cent, but I didn’t want to wait until I was 100 per cent to do something.

“I keep seeing the low uptake of vaccinations in the community and I thought: ‘Nah, I have to do something’.”

That something has seen Tuala, his partner Fionna Burton, and their two children – aged 8 and 12 years old – getting out to vaccination clinics and pop-up sites around Auckland helping to promote getting the jab.

On Friday and Saturday he and members of the ASA Foundation charity, which he is the chairman of, were in Manurewa, South Auckland, helping at a site specifically targeting Samoans.

“We ran out of vaccines,” he said.

“Sixty per cent were youth who had not got the jab before. They came to talk to me and said they came out after seeing me almost collapse on TV – that Samoan humour, but serious.

“When people see people they recognise or people that look like them, they are going to pull into the carpark to the shot.”

He tells people of his family’s experience as much as he can and the fears he had for his partner, whose health deteriorated quickly while the family was in MIQ, and his children.

He also tells them of his own hesitancy to get the vaccination at one point. He only got his first jab not long before contracting the virus after being pressured to do so by his partner.

Now he tells everyone to get vaccinated.

“Think about the people you care about and care for – your children or your elderly parents. Then get the shot.

“We all miss our families outside of Auckland and in the Islands. I miss my family and really want to see them again.

“Even going to church – we haven’t been able to go to the house of the Lord for a long time now.”

Today he was at a vaccination rally put on by Manurewa Marae at Pak’nSave Manukau, on Cavendish Drive, waving a large Samoan flag and decked out in a T-shirt with the words “Samoa mo Samoa” – Samoans for Samoans.

Such vaccination pop-up sites – promoted as the “Shot Cuzz” rally – although are open to anyone and everyone, are targeting some of the most vulnerable communities in Māori and Pasefika.

Like many, there were incentives and gifts for those who got their jabs – including the chance to win a $5000 cash prize at this one.

Tuala said the best incentive, however, should be knowing you had a form of protection against the virus he fought and ultimately beat.

“Knowing that I’ve had Covid, I’m just grateful I can breathe again.”

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