Prioritise Māori now, pandemic response group says

By Mare Haimona-Riki

Although essential workers are also being prioritised in the vaccine roll-out, the national Māori pandemic response group Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā wants the government to immediately prioritise Māori and Pasifika in the programme as it says these communities are in serious peril.

Auckland University associate professor and Papakura marae GP Dr Matire Harwood says more Māori involvement is vital to getting the vaccinations to the right people and places.

“The people making decisions on who is getting the vaccine haven’t really sought Māori partnership."

However, it is not all doom and gloom, as Harwood says she was given some reassurance that important changes are just around the corner.

“I was just in a meeting with the Ministry of Health, and they promised me that they would look at doing this properly from now on. So I would love to see a bigger push to include Māori, especially our young people leading the way in that regard – providing strategies and suggestions of where it should be delivered.”

The encouragement for more rangatahi to be involved in these decisions comes after it was announced yesterday that children aged 12 to 15 are now eligible for the vaccine as the country tries to get ahead of the threat of the delta strain of covid-19.

“The push now is to ensure that we are including our young people in everything that we do in regards to managing Covid,” Harwood says.  

Earlier this week, Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare said on Te Ao Tapatahi that Māori and Pasifika vaccination rates were “stubbornly low," which Harwood attributes to the unknown origins of the vaccine.

“Taking the time to sit down and talk through those questions with whānau has worked time and time again so they can be informed and make that decision.”