Vaccination clinics prioritising Māori 'swamped by Pākehā’

Posted 7 September 2021 by Moana Ellis

The national strategy of vaccinating against Covid-19 through general and mass events is not working for Māori, with even clinics that prioritise Māori and Pasifika being “swamped” by Pākehā, a Covid-19 researcher says.

A person has a dose administered at the event.

A person has a dose administered at the event. Photo: RNZ / Tim Brown

Earlier this week, Act Party leader David Seymour tweeted out a vaccine code reserved for Māori, encouraging his supporters to use the code themselves.

The code was sent by Māori health provider Te Whānau o Waipareira via confidential email to its clients as part of a push to lift Māori vaccination rates that are less than two thirds of the non-Māori rate.

Te Whānau o Waipareira CEO John Tamihere said Seymour was trying to sabotage attempts to make the rollout more equitable. He said his clinics had vaccinated five times as many Pākehā as Māori and Pasifika.

Independent writer, researcher and advisor Rāwiri Taonui, who focuses on Covid-19 in Māori communities, said the story was similar around the country and different strategies were now needed to turn around low vaccine uptake by Māori.

“At the moment our main strategy is to have mass vaccination events and some are prioritised for Māori and Pasifika but what’s happening is those events are actually being swamped by Pākehā, quite a lot of them,” Taonui said.

“A better strategy would be to collate information about where whānau live or have whānau gather at marae and have mobile vaccination units go out to the community.”

Taonui said another idea would be to bring in booking “navigators” to help Māori, especially kaumātua, who are finding it difficult to book online, and to help whānau book group vaccinations.

In the Whanganui District Health Board region, nearly 54,500 doses of Pfizer have been delivered – just over 49 per cent of the total due to be delivered in the local rollout.

Māori health providers are running clinics throughout the region, including in rural and isolated centres and in marae communities, and on Friday a walk-in clinic is being held at Te Ao Hou Marae in Whanganui from 10am-2pm.

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Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest news service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers’ Association and NZ On Air.