A guard at a Covid-19 testing centre in Christchurch. (Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)
A guard at a Covid-19 testing centre in Christchurch. (Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

The BulletinNovember 19, 2021

The race to boost Māori vaccination rates

A guard at a Covid-19 testing centre in Christchurch. (Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)
A guard at a Covid-19 testing centre in Christchurch. (Kai Schwoerer/Getty Images)

Leaders are warning of possible devastation in their communities as Māori vaccination rates remain far below the national average, Justin Giovannetti writes in The Bulletin.

There’s less than a month before Aucklanders can travel. Māori leaders are warning that the government’s decision to open Auckland’s border for the summer could be devastating for their communities. As te ao Māori News reports, there could be 6,600 Māori cases by Christmas, according to projections of where the outbreak is headed. More than 42% of current cases are Māori, a percentage that is growing faster than the outbreak. Many areas with the lowest vaccination rates have large Māori populations, including the East Coast and Northland. Former MP Shane Jones told Stuff that Northland will never hit 90% and called on the border to reopen, while local iwi leaders have said they need more time to plan for December’s reopening on the motorways heading north from Auckland.

The battle has moved to parliament. Reflecting the growing conflict between the Labour government and Māori groups, Te Pāti Māori and the government are now at loggerheads. The opposition party is warning of a looming “bureaucratic genocide” created by failures in Wellington and a prime minister who, according to the party’s co-leaders, now fully understands what she’s about to do to Māori. Politik has looked at the party’s sustained attacks on the government this week. The Beehive has responded by rejecting the party’s call to keep Auckland isolated until vaccination rates hit 95%.

A last-minute splurge on advertising. The government has put forward $50 million to boost Māori vaccination rates. Across the motu, 91% of the eligible population has had one dose and 82% are fully vaccinated. The rates for Māori are far lower, at 78% and 62% respectively. Of the four main ethnic groups tracked by the Ministry of Health, the Māori community’s rates are the lowest by far. That’s partly a reflection of the group’s younger population, meaning it was last in line for doses. However, as the NZ Herald reports, the government has now handed out 26 contracts to boost vaccination rates before the Auckland border opens on December 15. Newly-funded initiatives include TikTok campaigns, kapa haka and much door-knocking — as well as a heavy advertising blitz, judging from the number of ads on YouTube and Spotify.

Covid will spread to every corner of the North Island. In the NZ Herald, the health minister has warned that 16,000 cases a week is the worst-case scenario in this delta outbreak. Writing in Newsroom, Marc Daalder has looked at what could be Covid’s unstoppable summer. Outside of Auckland, most New Zealanders still aren’t used to the idea of Covid-19 in their communities. Here’s a powerful paragraph from Daalder’s piece that stood out:

“Health experts say Covid-19 will soon spread to every corner of the North Island and could spark massive outbreaks in Māori communities. While those living in the hyper-vaccinated urban strongholds may not experience too much disruption, the virus will go wild wherever vaccination rates are low. Children too could suffer, with an immunologist warning that most kids under the age of 12 are likely to contract Covid-19 in the coming months”.

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Image: Tina Tiller

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