Peeni Henare woos Māori over Covid-19 vaccine

By Tumamao Harawira

New Zealand is about to embark on the largest and most intensive vaccination programme in its history, and there is great debate among Māori about their position in the programme.

Associate Minister for Māori Health, Peeni Henare, arrived in Whangārei today to talk about the government's rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine and what that entails for Māori.

Māori health leaders say Māori should be at the top of the list and the priority given to older people in particular. According to Henare that's why the Covid-19 roadshow is so imperative. "That's the reason I am going around the country to watch and to listen and to answer the big questions from Māoridom. That's the amazing thing about our job."

The Covid-19 vaccine rollout plan is under attack from some Māori health leaders who say it isn't based on evidence or achieving equity. Peeni says, "firstly we have to start with Māori health organisations. What we all want is to work together with those that are running these organisations in our community because we know that these are actually the people whose hands are on the ground."

Nannies first

Over the next few months the Covid-19 vaccination will be made available to anyone over the age of 16 but there are some among the iwi who have reservations.

The Covid-19 roadshow began in Whangārei, then headed to Kaeo, then Kaitaia and then onto Kaikohe. According to Dr Matarōria Lyndon, there are a couple of key things that Māori want: "We as Māori must receive equity along with the rest of New Zealand. This is a very big issue for me."

And Matarōria is in no doubt as to who should be the first to receive the vaccine. "I am a Māori doctor so I want to see my nannies and my koro getting this vaccine."

Over the coming days Northland's views on the rollout of the Covid-19 vaccine will be made clear to the minister. Peeni says, "We started in Whangārei, next we head north to meet Ngāti Kahu, Muriwhenua, back down to Ngāpuhi. The mahi is still the same to answer questions to help alleviate some of the fears."