Tamariki vax clinic launch amid Omicron spread

By Will Trafford

A West Coast hauora provider is pioneering a kaupapa Māori vaccination clinic for tamariki, amid fears youth and booster vaccination rates are too low to mount a sufficient defence against community spread of the Covid-19 Omicron variant.

Ngāi Tahu's Poutini Wāiora is running a vaccination day at Arahura Marae near Hokitika on Saturday with a focus on making a comfortable and fun experience for tamariki.

Chief executive Lisa Tumahai says free activities from bouncy castles to ice creams, and a sausage sizzle as well as transportation to the event will all be part of the day.

“We’re pleased to offer a safe space at Arahura Marae for whānau and tamariki to get vaccinated where they can connect with their whakapapa, whenua and tīpuna.

"While tamariki are less likely to become severely sick or be hospitalised due to Covid-19, the virus is still a major health risk for communities and some children may still get very sick.”

Some 476,000 tamariki aged 5 to 11 years old became eligible to get their vaccine on Monday, but early data indicates tamariki Māori vaccination rates are trailing that of the general population and a cabinet report leaked to Māori Television revealed government concerns the country’s healthcare system could strain due to low tamariki and booster rates.

Young population

“Māori are a young population, with more than 30% of all whānau Māori under the age of 15. That’s another reason why it’s so important parents, caregivers and legal guardians consider vaccinating eligible tamariki, to help protect future generations of their whānau and the continuation of their whakapapa.”

Te Tai Poutini reported its first Covid-19 case this week, the most recent data suggests just 83% of Māori 12 years and older have had both jabs, well below the government’s 90% target, Tumahai says those stats don’t need to be the case with tamariki and, while vaccination is optional, staff will be on site to help whānau make informed decisions.

“Our nurses are available for a kōrero to answer any pātai. The vaccine is safe, and there is no pressure to get your tamariki vaccinated. We will provide more opportunities to get vaxxed in the coming months,”

Poutini Waiora will follow up clinics at the marae in February and will soon have four wheel drive mobile clinics visiting rural communities. The health provider will also run pop up clinics in partnership with the West Coast District Health Board.

Saturday’s event runs from 10 am to 4 pm; anyone can turn up at the marae for their vaccine, but whānau are encouraged to book ahead by visiting www.bookmyvaccine.nz or contacting district coordinator Hamiria Hutana (03 755 6451).

“After spending the holidays with my two four-month old moko, the importance of protecting our vulnerable tamariki is front of mind for me. I want my whānau to grow up in this Covid-19 world strong and healthy," Tumahai says.