‘We need to up our game for Māori’ - PM admission on vaccination rates

By Jessica Tyson

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has admitted more needs to be done to increase vaccination rates for Māori.

It comes after the National Urban Māori Authority (NUMA) lobbied to make the Ministry of Health and Auckland district health boards urgently prioritise Māori and Pasifika vaccinations and vaccinators.

According to the Ministry of Health, so far about 108,000 Māori have been fully vaccinated, while about 1.2 million non-Māori have been.

Ardern says now that all New Zealanders over 12 are eligible to be vaccinated, more needs to be done to reach different population groups.

“We do break down the data across age groups, ethnicity and region, and we do need to up our game for Māori. We have seen good rates among Pasifica communities right now but I’d like to see much higher rates among Māori. So that shows us that we need to do more alongside our Māori health providers to support them.”

Afterthoughts

NUMA chair Lady Tureiti Moxon says the pivot is essential as Tāmaki Mākaurau battles its Covid-19 outbreak, in which half of the new cases are affecting Pasifika due to transmission at a church service.

“Māori and Pasifika service providers should be at the forefront. Instead, they are listed among a whole lot of providers on the Ministry of Health and district health board vaccinations sites,” Moxon says.

A $39 million package was created to support Māori healthcare providers deliver the Covid-19 vaccine and an extra $2 million was set aside for the Immunisation Māori Communications Fund.

Ardern says that while vaccination rates have increased by 180 percent since before the level four restrictions, plans areunder way to start new vaccination sites to reach other communities.

“We’ll keep bringing on new sites but we’ll also keep innovating. We want to be at events, we want to be at rural isolated communities. We need to be where people are and so that's really a big goal for us.”

Today Auckland Mayor Phil Goff called for the region to get priority in the vaccine rollout as the city battles its outbreak, particularly given areas south of Auckland have seen no new cases and were moved to alert level 3 last night.

'Radically prioritise'

Moxon agrees vaccination supply needs to prioritise Tāmaki but that communication efforts must radically reprioritise Māori and Pasifika.

“We don’t even feature in the government’s multi-million dollar communications machine. Māori health providers are invisible. Our people need to know where we are and how they can access us. We are never going to be part of the solution if we’re always being kept at the bottom, as an option,” Moxon says.

Te Ao Māori News asked the Ministry of Health on August 10 how much of the fund had been spent but is yet to receive a response.

Despite what she says is a lack of adequate government messaging, Moxon praised Māori health providers running "a no-barriers: no groups, no age restrictions, no sign-ups" approach to vaccinating.

“One whānau is better than none,” she says.