Saturday, December 4

Effective vaccination campaigns must include Maori and Pacific leaders – immunologist

Calls for New Zealanders to get vaccinated are increasingly urgent as Covid-19 integrates into the community.

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Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Two people have died in the latest outbreak, the number of daily cases remains in double figures and the virus continues to spread outside Auckland.

The government has announced a nationwide immunization push for October 16 dubbed Super Saturday, but one of Auckland’s top Maori vaccinators is questioning what it will accomplish.

Te Whānau o Waipareira runs two mass vaccination centers and has given tens of thousands of Auckland residents their Pfizer injections.

Chief Executive Officer John Tamihere said the first thing he heard about Super Saturday was when Chris Hipkins announced it at a press conference, saying it would be like Election Day, with clinics open all day and into the night.

He said that’s not going to be enough when it comes to getting lagged vaccines.

“They won’t necessarily show up, those they are trying to target. We have to go out on the streets and take every suburb street by street and to do that you have to know where you are sending and deploying your resources,” Tamihere said.

“We would probably put a lot more resources into that campaign instead of the big show days.”

But the recent six-day vaccination event at the Vodafone Events Center is being hailed as a success after 7,000 people received a take-out dose.

Among them, many members of the Sāmoa Assemblies of God Church who know firsthand the stark reality of the virus.

A 50-year-old father of seven, who lost the battle with Covid yesterday, was a deacon at the church, and his wife is also in hospital with the disease.

Church spokesman Jerome Mika said the community is grieving.

He said that many members have been vaccinated at the self-service event in recent days, which was a success due to the many community groups that supported it.

“The willingness of the community to just be able to support and encourage their family members to come and get vaccinated.”

The experts agree.

Wellington Victoria University immunologist Diane Sika-Paotonu said that to be effective, any vaccination campaign must include Maori and Pacific leaders.

“Not only are they called right at the end to help make things work, but they are involved early on in the design stage of whatever activity, event and intervention is being planned.”

But one group argues that they need the correct information for that model to work.

Tamihere also runs the North Island Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency.

The Health Ministry is being taken to court for refusing to release health data for all Maori, which it said is vital to closing the dangerous gap in vaccination rates.

It is just over 57 percent for a first dose compared to 81 percent for Pākehā.

“Tai Tokerau is far behind, Bay of Plenty is far behind. These are Maori communities. It is not that they are stupid and stupid, it is that they are poorer and their priorities are different and it takes time to reach them.”

The Health Ministry said it cannot share the data because many of the people are not registered with Whānau Ora, so officials are not authorized to release it.

The ministry will release information on the country’s most and least vaccinated suburbs today.

Yesterday, 63,000 people were vaccinated as rates rise again after a month of decline.

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