Māori providers 'swamped' by Pākehā deliver 'vital role' in vaccine rollout

By Will Trafford

Māori health providers are proving 'vital' for both Māori and Non-Māori in the Covid-19 vaccination rollout.

Data released to Te Ao Māori News reveals 14 per cent of all vaccine doses have been delivered by Māori health providers with a third of them going to non-Māori.

Eight per cent of doses were at sites led solely by a Māori provider, with six per cent at sites where Māori providers and district health boards work collaboratively.

Up to August 23, Māori health providers are the largest non-governmental vaccinator of non-Māori.

In a statement provided with the numbers, the Ministry of Health praised “the vital role” Māori health providers have played in the vaccine rollout.

The provisioning stats come amid controversy surrounding ACT leader David Seymour's decision to tweet a Māori priority vaccination code for Whānau Ora healthcare provider Waipereira.

'The dirtiest of his lows'

Seymour attacked Māori prioritisation after sharing the code saying it “shows a government obsessed with racially categorising its citizens.”

Waipereira, an Auckland provider led by former parliamentarian John Tamihere, says the codes were set up amid fears the Delta strain could have devastating effects on Māori who are 50% more likely to die from Covid-19.

Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer branded Seymour’s leaking of the codes “the dirtiest of his lows” because of the impact it could have on the decision of whether “whānau decide to go or not.”

Te Ao Māori News understands the codes were considered essential as Māori healthcare providers have a policy of turning nobody away, regardless of ethnicity, for the jab.

Māori health researcher Dr Rawiri Taonui says marae-organised mass vaccination events, for example, have been overwhelmed.

“Some are prioritised for Māori and Pasifika but what's happening is those events is they are actually being swamped by Pākehā, quite a lot of them," he said.

'Hugely influential' kuia dies

It was revealed on Monday the first person to die from the current Covid-19 outbreak was a 90-year-old kuia from Northland.

Tributes flowed for the woman who was influential in establishing and supporting the Hoani Waititi Marae in West Auckland’s Oratia.

The former co-leader of Te Pāti Māori who built the marae, Dr Pita Sharples, says the woman, called Renata was hugely influential.

“She played a huge part and right up until recently too,” he said.

The kuia’s family cautioned all New Zealanders to get the vaccine.

"This is real," they said following the death of their nanny.

Last week the government delivered a $22 million shot in the arm for Whānau Ora providers to boost the vaccine rollout in Tāmaki.

Latest fund 'specifically for Māori'

The money tops up $39 million set aside for the Māori vaccination programme in March.

The March funding was not ringfenced for Māori. However, Associate Minister for Health and Minister for Whānau Ora Peeni Henare told Te Ao Tapatahi on Friday the latest funds would be.

“This money is specifically for Māori. And there are three agencies, and one of those agencies is a Pacific peoples agency, so Māori and Pacifika will benefit directly from this money,” he said.

Henare rejected assertions by health leaders including Taonui that the Maori vaccination programme has been a failure but conceded Māori vaccination rates were "stubbornly low".

Henare said while the new funding is focused on those in Tāmaki who are most at risk of contracting the virus, the government is also working on accelerating vaccinations in remote regions too.

He says the toll-free 0800 28 29 26 Covid-19 vaccination Healthline, for example, had been established to support those with limited internet access, who can’t access the BookMyVaccine.nz website.