Keeping my whānau safe: 12-year-old Wharekura student gets first Covid-19 vaccine dose

By Tamati Tiananga

A 12-year-old Wharekura student, Khaio Maipi-Leaf, made the decision to get vaccinated with the support of his parents. The Waikato boy who has been vaccinated with his parents' support is calling on other Māori youth to consider doing the same. 

"I did it to get protected, I am excited to get the second vaccination and to tell my whānau I am fully vaccinated," Khaio Maipi-Leaf said.

Mum Justeena Leaf said she and her husband, Potaea Maipi, wanted to make sure both their children's immune systems had the extra support if they were exposed to the Covid-19 delta variant. 

"If I can immunise my babies to get them that extra support in some kind of shape or form, that's what I'm going to do. My babies are our future so we have to think about what's right and what's in the future for them," Leaf said.

"What this means as a mum, what this means for our whānau is that we may be able to attend tangi, we may be able to go outside the usual borders. We need to adapt to the fact that Covid-19 is with us and just getting this for my babies means that they have more protection."

Four of Khaio's close relatives aged 12-15 who are also at Te Wharekura o Rakaumanga have all booked in to get their first vaccination with Khaio expected to get his second vaccination in the coming weeks. This brings a total of more than 50 whānau members including his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and first cousins all receiving their vaccinations to date. 

"I trust the vaccination process, I trust this right from the time my kids were born and the tino rangatiranga I have over them. We have followed that process to keep them safe against measles, whooping cough and all those sorts of things."

The couple's eldest, 17-year-old daughter Kidada Maipi-Leaf, has been fully vaccinated. She says some youth are misinformed and need to find the helpful information on the Ministry of Health website to answer any concerns.

 "If you are not informed, then, of course, you will feel nervous and or scared, Kidada Maipi-Leaf said. "This is something you should consider discussing further with family members, it's all about being informed. I believe the vaccine will protect you and your whānau."

Leaf works in health and is the clinical lead at Huntly's Waahi Whaanui vaccination centre which has been open for almost three months. The Leaf-Maipi whānau live in the small community of Huntly, which has a population currently estimated at just below nine thousand. 

Khaio and his whānau made the call to vaccinate to keep their hometown of Huntly safe, Leaf said.

"We've hit close to six thousand people. When we talk about Huntly we're also talking about surrounding areas and people coming in as well. In terms of date, we get that given to us but we're keeping an eye on it."