The Northern Advocate
Lack of M¯aori vaccine priority a ‘failure’
National Ma¯ori Pandemic Group member Dr Rawiri Jansen considers it a huge failure on his part and the Government’s that the vaccine rollout does not prioritise Ma¯ori below 65 years of age.
Members of the pandemic group, also named Te Ro¯pu¯ Whakakaupapa Uruta¯, have previously criticised the Government for treating Ma¯ori as an afterthought in its Covid-19 response.
In January, Jansen — also a GP — voiced expectations that Ma¯ori under 65 years would be included in vaccine priority groups, given the poor health experienced by Ma¯ori at earlier ages than Pa¯keha¯.
While the rollout’s second vaccination priority group included older Ma¯ori and Pacific people cared for by wha¯ nau and the carers themselves, there is no mention of the priority group Jansen expected — much to his frustration.
“It gives me an overwhelming sense of failure,” he said.
“It’s going to lead to a grossly inequitable vaccination programme because we didn’t follow the science, the proof of that will take some time.”
Jansen, of Nga¯ti Raukawa, predicted Ma¯ori would be at more risk of dying if the virus mutated and older wha¯nau were not appropriately vaccinated.
Jansen also took aim at the Government for what he claimed was a decision based on optics rather than science.
“I think the political decision was influenced by non-health, nonscience actors.
“We should not be running this based on a communications expert’s view of acceptability, that’s a complete failure of leadership in my view.”
He urged the likes of director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield to review the rollout’s priority groups to include at-risk Ma¯ ori.
Te Ropu Smith is chief executive of the Ma¯ori health provider
Te Hau Ora o Nga¯puhi in Kaikohe, Northland — where up to 80 per cent of the population is Ma¯ori.
She agreed with Jansen’s expectation that Ma¯ori over the age of 45 should be given vaccine priority and noted such measures addressing Ma¯ori health were being considered after the fact.
“It’s too much of an afterthought,” she said.
A Ministry of Health spokesperson said people at risk of getting very sick from Covid-19 — many of whom were Ma¯ori — would start to receive the vaccine from next month.
The spokesperson outlined the $39 million investment for the Ma¯ori Covid-19 vaccine and immunisation approach, the majority of which would be spent developing support services to ensure wha¯nau could easily access vaccinations.
Jansen lauded a national programme that will train community health workers to give jabs, saying it would allow the Government to meet its vaccination targets.