Ngarewa-Packer: “I'm not about to allow anyone to die”

By Jessica Tyson

Māori Party co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer is hitting the streets to vaccinate whānau.

She’s leading a task force in the Taranaki region where only 42 percent of Māori are fully vaccinated.

It’s one of the lowest Māori vaccination rates in Aotearoa.

Over Labour weekend the mobile clinic staffed by Ngarewa-Packer, nurses and trained vaccinators from South Taranaki iwi, vaccinated people in Patea and Hawera.

Ngarewa-Packer says a major worry of so many being unvaccinated was the likelihood of death.

“The other part of it is that we get sick and we've just got no resilience. There's been no engagement or support.

So I'm not about to allow anyone to die on our shift not without a bloody good big fight first and that's how we roll.”

Debbie Ngarewa-Packer vaccinates John Leef. Source: File

The Leef whānau of Hawera took advantage of the mobile clinic visit to their street.

Joanne Leef says working night shifts had made vaccination difficult.

“I sleep during the day and I finish late at night. So it was hard for me to go and get my first jab but when my husband came home and said, ‘Oh, it’s just down the road’. Well, I just got out of bed. It was my chance to come and just get my first jab.”

About 15 of her grandchildren live in the same street.

“My son got his second injection today, which I'm pretty proud of because he got it before me and my husband.”

Kaimahi. Source: File

Ngarewa-Packer says the task force has found its own way to reach out to whānau using electoral data.

“We've actually come up with our own solutions. I can give you a comparison last weekend. I think we got 160, they (the DHB) got 30. So that goes to show the comparative difference between a DHB way in Taranaki and a Māori way.”

As part of their training, the vaccinators learned practical and theoretical parts of delivering the vaccine. Chelsea Kumeroa of Ngāti Ruanui was one of them.

“We learned about the size of the needles for the right people and what goes in and what the vaccine is. And we learned how to inject them into people and what not to do, just how to do it safely and hygienically. We’ve got a lot of confidence from it and we're really good at it now.”

Ngāti Ruanui cultural team member Rukuwai Watene, Johm Leef and Debbie Ngarewa-Packer. Source: File

Ngāti Ruanui cultural team member Rukuwai Watene says going out to deliver the vaccine to Māori is offering them a choice that their tūpuna never had.

“I just go back to the flu epidemic of 1918 where our urupā, like a lot of other people's, we have a mound. It’s full of people all of our people that died through our flu epidemic and at that time our ancestors didn’t have a choice. But we have a choice to make a difference. So it's imperative that we get out there and try to get the message across to many of our families as we can.”