Health experts prioritise vaccines for rangatahi Māori

By Taroi Black

Dr Ashley Bloomfield and rangatahi Māori from Mā Te Huruhuru attending wānanga at Te Manukanuka o Hoturoa Marae. Photo / Supplied

Te Puni Kōkiri has funded a youth programme to engage with rangatahi Māori through waiata about Covid-19 vaccines.

The ‘COVID-19 VAX Yeah or Nah?’ is run by Mā Te Huruhuru, a non-profit organisation that aims to raise awareness within Māori communities about the value of the vaccine.

Kaiwhakahāere, Mahira Maihi, and her team selected fifty rangatahi 16 years and over from across Tāmaki Makaurau. Today was their last wānanga of five weekends held at various marae in the city.

“We know that Māori and Pasifika are the ones that aren’t likely to get vaccinated. So, we want to create the awareness for them,” Maihi says.

Rangatahi were given an opportunity to learn about the vaccines from Ministry of Health Director-General and Chief Executive Dr Ashley Bloomfield, and Dr Anthony Jordan and Dr Maia Brewerton who are the only two Māori clinicians working in immunology in Aotearoa.

The group compiled what they had learnt into a music album in both Māori and English to mobilise Māori communities to get vaccinated. New Zealand music artists Tyree Tautogia (Smashproof) and Evil Flows also got involved with the programme with the hope of putting on a concert.

“We wanted to give them as much information as possible so that they can make a better-informed decision.”

Ngatokimatawhaorua Mokaraka, 19, said before she joined the wānanga the pandemic was an apocalypse and people felt the vaccines were a 'sketchy' move. But after learning more about it in this wānanga, she is now keen to get vaccinated.  

“Given the privilege and opportunity to be a part of it, i’ve been able to build confidence and a family,” she says.

Dr Jordan, who represents the NRHCC Northern Region DHB’s (Northland, Waitēmata, Auckland and Counties Manukau), sees the programme as a creative way to approach public engagement for rangatahi Māori and will look to appointing ambassadors for the Covid-19 regional response.  

NRHCC is supplying vaccines to five sites led by Māori health providers such as Manurewa Marae. Their priority now are Māori and Pasifika rangatahi above 16 years old.

“One of the things I worry about hauora events is that it’s not enjoyable in terms of how we communicate with the public,” he says.