OLIVIER Kamanzi and Mugenzi Jackson have shown the way for Mildura’s Congolese community to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
The friends hope to encourage the rest of their community to join them in being fully vaccinated, despite some hesitancy.
“At the moment there is only three of us from about 80 that are vaccinated,” Mr Kamanzi said.
“The others are concerned – they think the vaccine won’t help them and they don’t trust it.
“They say if someone is vaccinated they will die or become infertile.”
Mr Kamanzi said despite the “rumours” in his community, he was quick to get fully vaccinated.
“I wanted to protect myself but even though I am fully vaccinated, I can’t be free unless the rest of our community get it too,” he said.
Mr Jackson said: “Firstly I wanted to get it to protect myself and because I want it to go back to normal and to have our freedom.
“As an aged-care worker it was mandatory that I get it, but even if it wasn’t, I still would have done it and now I feel like I have done my part.”
Together the pair have been contacting members of their community to discuss getting vaccinated and the importance of not believing everything “they read online”.
“There is so much wrong information out there about the vaccine,” Mr Jackson said.
“The advice I am wanting to give others is to consider where they are getting their information and to consider the benefits of the vaccine after having already been through many lockdowns.
“Even if you can still get COVID, it lowers the risk. It’s important to listen to the doctor and think about how you have had other vaccines before, so why not have this one?”
Mr Kamanzi said it had been difficult to get the message across to the community.
“It is hard, as they generally only listen to the older members of the community,” he said.
“If an older member of the community had the vaccine, it would be much easier to get the message out.”
Sunraysia Mallee Ethnic Communities Council (SMECC) interim executive officer Joelle Brown said the hesitation felt among the Congolese community was similar to feelings in other Sunraysia multicultural groups.
“In some groups there has been hesitancy about the vaccine but as more members get the vaccine, more seem to follow,” she said.
“Someone has to take the first step and we hope by showing that Olivier and Jackson have had it that others follow their lead.”
Once restrictions allow, Ms Brown said she would work with Mr Kamanzi and Mr Jackson to host a face-to-face community information session for the Congolese community.
Anyone wanting more information or needing assistance to book vaccinations should call SMECC on 5022 1006.