Ministry denies tamariki vaccination info as Tamihere threatens legal action

By Will Trafford

The Ministry of Health will ‘work through’ a request from Whānau Ora to access tamariki Māori vaccination data but argues the High Court didn’t rule personal information must be handed over when they were before the courts in December; despite the hauora provider maintaining otherwise.

Vaccination for 5-to-11-year-olds launched on Monday, with 476,000 tamariki becoming eligible for vaccination but early data analysed by Māori Television reveals Māori vaccination rates are already trailing non-Maori.

Whānau Ora commissioning agency chief executive John Tamihere says his organisation’s by-Māori, for-Māori approach could turn that around by targeting areas of low vaccination with information campaigns and vaccination centres if they knew where those areas were.

Last year two Wellington High Court rulings found certain Māori vaccination data had to be released by the ministry to Whānau Ora, despite the ministry opposing the release.

However, Tamihere says the ministry hasn’t been forthcoming again and Whānau Ora might have to head back to court for tamariki Māori information.

"How many times do we have to go to court with these guys? The ministry knew this last year when we asked it for the data but it is extremely reluctant to provide us with anything," Tamihere said on Wednesday.

'Handed over what court intended'

Tamihere says the race is on given the highly-contagious Omicron variant has now been detected within the community.

However, the ministry's national immunisation programme director, Astrid Koornneef, says it has delivered everything the courts intended.

“The Ministry of Health has met all of its obligations and shared all relevant Māori vaccination health information with the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency in keeping with the High Court’s ruling released in early December.”

“The court had commented on aspects of the ministry’s decision-making in making data available to both Whānau Ora and other Māori organisations but did not direct the ministry to release all data to Whānau Ora,” she said.

Koornneef argues while the court provided ‘general guidance’ for the release of personal vaccination information, it didn't consider the sharing of personal contact information and vaccination status of tamariki.

Ministry 'will consult'

“The information requested is sensitive, given it involves children’s personal health and contact information. The ministry will consult Māori leaders, stakeholders and service providers, including the Whānau ora Commissioning Agency, as well as the office of the Children’s Commission and Privacy Commissioner about the approach to sharing personal information about children,” Koornneef told Te Ao Māori News.

The ministry did not say when such consultation would be completed and if or when any information that could help with the vaccination rollout, might be released.