No jab, no job - what does that mean for Māori?

By Marena Mane

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says job losses for Māori as a result of vaccination mandates do not have to be the case and she does not believe it will be.

“Māori vaccination rates are accelerating in Tāmaki Makaurau, up around 75% for the first dose now, so we are seeing those vaccination rates increase,” she says.

Under a new rule unveiled yesterday, the government is sending a warning to thousands of employees in close-contact companies across the nation, including pubs, cafés, gyms, and hairdressers.

When the country hits a double vaccination rate of 90%, the new 'traffic light' system starts, giving workers at businesses that require vaccine passports four weeks to receive the shot or risk losing their jobs.

The decision not to impose vaccination on the retail industry, according to Ardern, was made to make sure all people have access to essential commodities.

“We don't want a situation where unvaccinated people are unable to access food and essential medical supplies.”

Vaccine certificates

Ardern dismisses claims that the government is building a two-tier system between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated, saying other countries use vaccination certificates to keep people safe, so Aotearoa isn't the first to do so.

“What I think sets us apart is we're not going to start using them until we have very high rates of vaccination anyway, so the number of people in the country who won't be vaccinated amongst the eligible population will be small.”

Mandate for school students

Ardern insists that people do not need to be vaccinated to get government benefits, education, or medical care, but she does want teachers to be vaccinated to keep children safe.

“We will not require children to be vaccinated to be educated. That would be wrong.”

The great majority of people she's spoken to, according to Ardern, only appear to have questions about the vaccination.

“The group of people who are stridently anti-vax in New Zealand is actually quite small but they just can be very loud.”

Managed isolation 

Ardern says the government is exploring a safe approach for people to isolate themselves at home instead of at a facility, which costs taxpayers $4000 for every person who travels into the country and is compelled to go into MIQ.

“We want to make sure that everything we do is still keeping people safe ... we will be making further announcements over the way that MIQ will change this week.”

New Zealand land wars

With the cancellation of the Te Pūtake o te Riri commemoration, Ardern recognises the significance of this event in New Zealand history and believes the events should be taught in all schools.

“I do think that's the most important decision that Parliament could make on behalf of future generations so that we don't have a situation where some of our young people never learn of their own nation's history.”

Undiagnosed cancers

With Breast Cancer Awareness this month, 133 women have gone untreated as a result of visits being cancelled or delayed owing to lockdown limitations.

Teams have been working extremely hard to contact the women, according to Ardern, and they have now adjusted their procedure from what they did previously.

“We're now by default, essentially saying to those women, here's your chance to be screened. Here's your appointment, please come in and see us rather than wait for people to reach us.”