Keep removing barriers to Maori vaccination, doctor says

According to the Ministry of Health, just over 50 per cent of eligible Maori have received at least one dose, compared to approximately 90 per cent of Asian and 75 per cent of European and other ethnicities. Photo BBC

By Nathan Limm

As Auckland hovers in alert level three, one health authority figure says Maori vaccination numbers need boosting.

A doctor at an Auckland vaccination clinic is urging other health centres to reach out to their Maori communities.

Auckland last week moved to Covid-19 alert level three for 14 days whilst the rest of New Zealand remains at level two.

Dr Vanshdeep Tangri, clinical director at Whanau Ora, says vaccination numbers have dropped over the last two weeks.

According to the Ministry of Health, just over 50 per cent of eligible Maori have received at least one dose, compared to approximately 90 per cent of Asian and 75 per cent of European and other ethnicities.

The Pasifika community also lag behind at around 66 per cent.

Tangri says improving accessibility is the best way to increase immunisation rates.

“We are now looking at providing mobile vaccination services, having more drive-throughs so people can drive in and don’t have to make an appointment.”

The site leader at Tamaki Vaccination Centre says they immunise between 700 and 900 people per day.

Te Ara Gillman says walk-in vaccinations have been more productive than online reservations.

“The booking system is quite complex. If you’re not an IT-friendly user, you don’t have access to the internet or you have other barriers, it can make it a little harder.”

Tangri says it is important New Zealanders understand why Maori are prioritised in the vaccination process.

He says under the Treaty of Waitangi, Maori must have equitable healthcare.

“Maori often have low rates of vaccination so we need to be mindful that we don’t have the same issue with Covid-19.”

Tangri says Maori often face barriers other demographics do not.

“People often don’t have money for petrol to get to the vaccination site or work multiple jobs so they don’t have time to make an appointment.

“They might only get a few minutes to dart out and get the jab done.”

According to a 2021 study into Maori housing and wellbeing by Statistics NZ, 20.8 per cent of tangata whenua live in crowded households, compared to 5.3 per cent of Europeans.

Gillman says this means finances are often spread thinly.

“They live in more deprived areas and therefore don’t have access to the resources that other ethnicities do. In general, they tend to have other health issues which means their risk of getting Covid-19 is higher.”

Tangri says having Maori and Pasifika representation at clinics will help cater to the needs of their demographic.

“Having kaimahi – staff – who are Maori and Pacific Islanders can provide them with the requirements and understanding to deal with barriers to them getting their vaccination.”

A total of 23 Covid-19 cases have been recorded today, with 22 linked to the current cluster.

The August community outbreak has risen to 1108 total cases.

  • Nathan Limm is a 20-year-old student in the third year of his journalism degree. He has grown up and done all his schooling in Howick, most recently attending Howick College. He is currently working as a sports journalist with Newstalk ZB.