Reti reveals barriers stopping Northland Māori from getting vaccinated

By Jessica Tyson

Covid vaccination rates in Northland are among the lowest in the country, with the latest figures showing 71 percent of people have had their first dose, and only 50 percent have had their second.

National's deputy leader, Dr Shane Reti, joined iwi health provider Ki A Ora Ngātiwai to give out vaccines in Whangaruru North today.

During a live interview on Tapatahi he identified three barriers causing the low vaccination numbers.

“The first is that there’s a barrier to good-quality information," Reti says. "Sometimes people get information that might not be the best science."

The second barrier is “service,” where vaccination services need to be taken to Māori.  

“There’s a barrier to service, which is why the Ki A Ora Ngātiwai team are here today taking services out to people.”

The third barrier is between Māori and institutions such as the government or other authoritative figures who Māori don’t trust.

Explaining the gap

“It's not just in Te Tai Tokerau but throughout the motu. Those three hurdles are part of the reason why we’ve got that 20 percentage point difference roughly in Te Tai Tokerau with our vaccination rates for Māori.”

Reti says primary care groups are the answer to increasing vaccination rates because Māori are more likely to trust them. He'd like to see primary care staff increase the number of home visits.

“If we look at those issues we were talking about, imperfect information, and access and trust in institutions, primary care attends to all of them. Primary care brings the best science that’s known.  Primary care brings trust. I’ve delivered their babies so I bring that trust already and so engaging primary care more, having them at the doorstep is what our next step needs to be to lift our vaccination rates for Māori and for non-Māori.”

Ngātiwai member Bella Ria-Tamihana agrees with Reti and says," It’s those relationships that you build from birth through. It is about whānau and how you engage with them. I think the institutions as Dr Reti has mentioned have not serviced us well,” she says.

“We’re here as a whānau to support each other and we’ve never been given that opportunity or even the voice to have those conversations at those levels that we should have been engaged in.”