Maori and Pasifika vaccination urgency

An increasing urgency to improve low vaccination rates among Maori and Pasifka people has been backed by a University of Otago immunologist.

University of Otago Wellington senior lecturer Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu
University of Otago Wellington senior lecturer Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu
University of Otago Wellington senior lecturer Dr Dianne Sika-Paotonu said the vaccination targets for New Zealand needed to include targets of 90% to 95% vaccination rates for Maori and Pasifka people as well.

It had been known from the start of the pandemic that those communities were vulnerable to being disproportionately affected by Covid-19.

Present low vaccination rates for those groups needed to improve to keep vulnerable communities safe from the Delta variant, Dr Sika-Paotonu said.

‘‘Accessibility issues persist for hard-to-reach communities and more vaccination outreach activities and events that are resourced appropriately are needed,’’ Dr Sika-Paotonu said.

‘‘Accelerated vaccination, testing and Covid-19 prevention efforts must also continue in a way that reduces barriers and builds trust for people — with the appropriate and targeted approaches focused on getting help and assistance out to those who need it most.

‘‘Twenty-four-seven clinics and mobile vaccination clinics, buses, vans, door-to-door efforts are still much needed and would further assist shift workers, those with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups and many others who can’t get to vaccination centres running during the daytime.’’

The announcement yesterday of approval and recommendation for a third dose of the Pfizer vaccine for people who were immunocompromised was welcome and an important step in keeping some of the more vulnerable New Zealanders safe, Dr Sika-Paotonu said.

Yesterday, a total of 12 reported hospitalised cases were people aged under 39 years, and they represented the least vaccinated age ranges.

Younger groups had less time to get vaccinated and needed to be encouraged and supported to get their vaccines, Dr Sika-Paotonu said.

But Maori and Pasifka people remain at the forefront of the Auckland outbreak.

Ministry of Health data shows of 181 hospitalised cases, 43 have been Maori and 107 have been Pacific people.

It was reported yesterday, young Maori in Auckland were the demographic group most likely to be unvaccinated.

They made up the biggest share of the current active cases and many lived in the suburbs of Auckland where the virus was entrenched.

Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare said kaumatua and kuia were leading vaccination rates among Maori.

However, the minister said he had noticed apathy in places outside of Auckland.

‘‘I say to the Maori people: Covid-19 is on the doorstep of your houses, do not let it enter. And the best course of protection still remains for us to vaccinate our people.’’

Ministry data shows only 66% of Maori nationally have had one dose and 45% have had two doses, significantly lower than the national averages of 85% and 66%, respectively.

In the South, 70% of Maori had received their first dose, and 51% had received two doses, the ministry said. — — Additional reporting The New Zealand Herald



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