Māori dominating the tail of the outbreak

By Marena Mane

Some health experts are saying Tāmaki Makaurau is on a knife-edge, and that the government's decision to move Auckland to Alert Level 3 despite 22 new cases, including three in the Waikato, is a calculated risk.

Health researcher Dr Rawiri Taonui says while Pasifika numbers dominated the opening of this outbreak, Māori are dominating the tail.

Taonui says the Waikato outbreak on Sunday raised concern among the Māori community, and the news of the 20 clusters on Monday reinforced the decision to shift down a level, despite a calculated risk.

“The government felt it had control of at least 16 of them. And that there are only two more of concern, so I think that’s hit the balance,” he says.

Taonui says Auckland has moved to level three at exactly the same time as it did during the first wave last year. However, the difference is no one knows how far the cases have spread in the Waikato, we are seeing three times more daily cases and he says, “We've also got several 100 people sitting in MIQ, which is again a risk itself.”

Taonui claims that as of yesterday, Māori are at the top for having the highest number of cases.

“The two active clusters look like they might be Māori, and then we've got that little pocket of cases in the Waikato. Put that together with lower vaccination and that's a concern,” he says.

Māori health providers

Taonui adds that data from the DHB's internal reports reveal that Māori health providers are doing exceptionally well in their communities but that the statistics in smaller towns, where there are no Māori health providers, are significantly lower.

“I think Māori health providers have been making the right calls for some weeks now, and those calls are only just beginning to be reciprocated by the government.”

Dr Rawiri Jansen has been praised by Taonui for being "eloquent" in describing the problems and obstacles our people experience in terms of transportation and online booking methods.

“The Māori health providers have been real heroes in this situation. They're not only prioritising Māori, but they're also vaccinating 1000s of Pākehā people as well. And, you know, hats off to them and huge respect.”

Vaccinating children five to 11-years-old

Yesterday Pfizer announced its vaccine is safe and effective for children aged five to 11-years-old, and Taonui believes this is where Aotearoa is headed but cautions that, even if 90% of the population is completely vaccinated, the other 10% can still infect others.

“I see the United States is beginning to move to younger vaccination as well. So I think it is where we need to go for the long term.”