'A game of two halves': Māori vaccination rates must reach 90 per cent, experts say

Jerry Taitua with his The Shot coffee van and Covid-19 vaccination card after getting his shot on Super Saturday at Nelson Intermediate.
Martin De Ruyter/Stuff
Jerry Taitua with his The Shot coffee van and Covid-19 vaccination card after getting his shot on Super Saturday at Nelson Intermediate.

Super Saturday may have been New Zealand’s greatest vaccination achievement to date but, as figures reveal almost four out of five people taking part in the vaxathon used it to get their second jab, the risk to Māori, as one of the country’s most vulnerable population, remains.

Ministry of Health data showed that 85 per cent of eligible New Zealanders had received their first dose of the vaccine by the end of Super Saturday, with 65 per cent of the population becoming fully vaccinated.

For Māori, 21,702 were vaccinated, with just over 50 per cent getting their first jab.

It may seem like a big jump, increasing the percentage of Māori protected from Covid-19 by 5.4 per cent in one day, but Māori are still underrepresented by almost 20 per cent for first doses, comparing national figures from the Ministry of Health.

READ MORE:
* Covid-19: 'Super Saturday' no quick fix for Northland's low vaccination rates
* Rangatahi last off the blocks for vaccine, but first to be blamed, Māori leaders say
* Covid-19: Māori leaders brace for impact as Government continues to ignore vaccine priority call

Super Saturday aimed to draw in communities that were hard to reach by making vaccinations as accessible as possible, but Dr Rawiri McKree Jansen, co-leader of Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā – the National Māori Pandemic Group – said the major concern was how to change the minds of those who are still resistant to getting the vaccine.

Dr Rawiri McKree Jansen, GP and co-leader of the Māori Pandemic group, says the job is only half done.
Tom Lee/Stuff
Dr Rawiri McKree Jansen, GP and co-leader of the Māori Pandemic group, says the job is only half done.

“It's a game of two halves,” he said.

“I don’t want to be the grinch who stole Super Saturday. I’m really pleased by the turnout, but I think, from the vaccine research, we’re halfway, all the easy people have been done.

“But now we have work to do. It’s hard work, and we must do it.”

It's a Treaty of Waitangi obligation that the Government ensure Māori are 90 per cent double vaccinated alongside the general population, Jansen said.

And with current infections of Covid-19 close to 50 per cent Māori, the push to ensure tangata whenua are protected from the virus must remain, Jansen said.

Stuff
Roxie Mohebbi leads a discussion about the Covid-19 vaccine with immunologist Dr Maia Brewerton and general practitioner Dr Api Talemaitoga as part of Stuff's Whole Truth project.

“We’ve done all these easy ones, and they’re like, ‘let's have a party’.

“We need a reality check because Super Saturday needs to be followed by a Super Sunday, then a Super Monday, and then we need to plan for Super Tuesday and Wednesday.”

There are resources out there to capture Māori vaccinations, particularly within Māori and iwi health providers, but if the nation praises itself for vaccinating 130,002 people in one day, the focus will not be on the work at hand, Jansen said.

“We've been doing it in clumps and lumps. We need to do the individual pick-ups.”

Of the 130,002 vaccinations delivered on Super Saturday, first doses equated to 30.01 per cent, Ministry of Health data showed.

Māori made up 27.73 per cent of first vaxxers, higher than their population percentage nationally which sits at 16.7 per cent of the total population, according to Statistics New Zealand, and higher still when taking into account that 25 per cent of the Māori population is under 12 years old.

But still, it’s not enough to impact the alert levels for Auckland and Waikato as the regions continue to register increases in Covid-19 cases, Jansen said.

“We’ve still got work to do,” says Dr Sue Crengle. “Many of our whānau still have questions that haven’t been answered by someone they trust.”
Supplied
“We’ve still got work to do,” says Dr Sue Crengle. “Many of our whānau still have questions that haven’t been answered by someone they trust.”

Dr Sue Crengle, a professor and general practitioner in Māori health, said shifting the border was a major concern for her.

The border around Auckland was meant to contain Delta, Crengle said. If it softened and Māori vaccination rates were not at the same level as Pākehā, she predicted it would be hugely problematic.

Another national vaccination day could help in a few weeks when those who received their first dose have had time to encourage others who were still on the fence, but that would only boost the rates so far, Crengle said.

“I don’t want to be a grinch, either, it’s fantastic, but we’ve still got work to do. We need to go where it hasn't been yet.

“Māori access to the vaccine has been more difficult, whether that’s because they haven’t got the information from the people they trust or even they haven’t got fuel in the car.”

Crengle said that to label everyone who hadn’t had a vaccine yet an “anti-vaxxer” was short-sighted.

“Many of our whānau still have questions that haven’t been answered by someone they trust. It’s a lot harder than just seeing an ad on TV and going out and getting it.

“We need to be looking to our whānau or rūnaka for these conversations.”