Māori need to be vaccinated ASAP - Dr Rawiri Taonui

By Jessica Tyson

Dr Rawiri Taonui says as many Māori as possible need to be vaccinated following the community outbreak of the Delta Covid-19 variant in Aotearoa.

It comes after seven cases of the Delta variant have been identified in the Auckland community since yesterday.

Taonui says so far 910,000 or 20 percent of New Zealanders have been vaccinated and only 10 percent of them are Māori.

“It’s really, really important that we get as many of our people vaccinated as possible given the very low rates of vaccination for Māori,” he says.

Taonui says the government’s age-related one-size-fits-all approach to vaccination does not work for Māori.

“What we need to do is have vaccines going directly to Māori health providers and they need to be resourced to access Māori communities and then they should also be empowered to decide at what age someone receives the vaccine. So essentially bring communities together and vaccinate everyone aged 16 years and over.”

US approach better

He says that is the approach that the United States has taken.

“The American indigenous native Indian communities have the highest rate of vaccination in the world and we really need to follow that example.”

Māori are 50 per cent more likely to die of Covid-19, and Minister Peeni Henare says he’s particularly concerned about the threat Delta poses for Māori whānau.

“It's always at the forefront of the thinking in the meetings that we have."

Henare has called vaccination rates for Māori "stubbornly low" but was reluctant to send more vaccines to Māori health providers as they were “stretched to the limit”.

“Our numbers for our kuia and kaumātua actually exceed non-Māori. So we did a reasonably good job on the 60-plus population."

Henare says over the next 24 to 48 hours vaccinations will pause "as we focus on the lockdown testing stations”.