Coronavirus Covid 19: Maori and Pacific health groups worried about low vaccination rates
Manurewa Marae Vaccination Center in South Auckland. Photo / Michael Craig
Months after the vaccine rollout began, the number of Maori and Pacific people vaccinated against Covid-19 remains far lower than the rest of the population.
Only 8.9% of Maori and 13% of Pasifika are fully immunized, according to data released Monday by the Ministry of Health.
Rawiri Jansen, co-director of Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā, the Maori National Pandemic Group, said the gap with the rest of the population did not appear to be closing.
“It is clear that the vaccination program is not working for Maori communities now,” he said.
“If we fear an epidemic of [the Delta variant] in a situation where the Maori community is the least vaccinated community in the country, this is very worrying. “
As the deployment accelerates, Maori and Pacific health groups are increasingly concerned that efforts to target the most vulnerable populations will fall flat.
At a mass vaccination event in Manukau a week ago, just under a fifth of the 15,000 people who attended were Maori or Pacific.
The North Regional Health Coordination Center said it was no surprise and that the mass clinic was still a smash success because it was not designed to target specific groups.
Clinical Director Anthony Jordan acknowledged that the stubborn divide between Maori, the Pacific and the rest was also seen in the Auckland region.
But he said the DHB was working specifically with iwi, marae and church groups to increase the number of these communities.
“Even engaging with these providers, we really needed to reach out to these communities more,” said Dr Jordan.
“So instead of staying in our centers, we really had to go into the community, reconnect with their general practices and the community organizations that they trust.”
Teuila Percival, a clinician from South Auckland who sits on the board of the Pasifika Medical Association, said it was important.
But it’s also something they’ve been saying for over a year.
“This is one of the problems that we see, I think, when you have a big public health response to something. If you’re not careful with your targeting, you’ll make the gaps worse,” Dr Percival said. .
“Maybe we need to focus a little more on making it really easy, you know, I think for the Pacific we need several layers.”
Dr Jordan said it was happening. In Auckland, there were now five Maori providers and two Pacific providers working in the communities, and awareness was increasing.
He said he was determined to close the gap.
“You know it’s hard to say what it could have been, all we need to focus on is what it needs to be and I’m really, really focused,” he said.
“My priority is to lead the NHRCC in these communities through their existing vendors and we are getting a lot of feedback from these communities on how we can best do this. “
Rawiri Jansen said if the health system was better connected with Maori and Pacific providers from the start, it might not have taken so long to close the gap.
“Why is it so slow, because it is clearly not necessary,” he said.
“Good advice has been given at every step but not followed, so part of the correction must be to listen to Maori expertise and use it to become truly effective programs.”