Medical leaders worried by immunisation rates for Māori children

By Muriwai Hei

Medical leaders are worried Māori immunisation rates for children are at an all-time low.

Māori Paediatric Society spokesperson Dr Owen Sinclair (Te Rarawa) says immunisation is nowhere near the levels needed to protect children.

A worrying number of children have not had their childhood immunisations. Those vaccinations prevent chickenpox, diphtheria, hepatitis B, Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), measles, mumps, pneumococcal disease, polio, rotavirus, rubella, tetanus whooping cough (also known as pertussis) and human papillomavirus. 

“The system is the problem," Sinclair says. "In 2009 it was noted that there were very low immunisation rates in New Zealand and very low immunisation rates in Maori and there was a general push to improve that. And they were able to achieve quite a large number of success and in fact, at the two-year time point, the immunisation rates between Maori and Pakeha became even at about 92%." 

'The system is the problem' - Dr Sinclair wants more iwi & marae involved to address issues.

Ignored as Covid-19 took over

In 2020, the coronavirus came to New Zealand but, due to the strong campaign to get vaccinated against Covid-19, immunisations for children were not promoted.

Because of that, the government wasted $8 million worth of measles vaccinations which expired.

Sinclair says the answer to the decline in these numbers is right in front of the country.

“Quick fixes would be funding culturally appropriate services and expanding to centres of excellence, such as Papakura Marae, Manurewa Marae, Ngāti Whātua, which provides an amazing healthcare system, Te Whānau O Waiparaira out west Auckland, and so really concentrating on those services and funding them.

"They know what to do for Maori.  And we just need to give them the same level of funding that is given to the Pākehā system, and they will get the job done.”