The Northern Advocate

Lack of M¯aori vaccine priority a ‘failure’

- Adam Pearse

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.

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