23 Jul 2021

East Cape Covid-19 vaccinations: 'We protect ourselves, we protect our pakeke'

From Checkpoint, 6:24 pm on 23 July 2021

The small predominantly Māori communities in Te Tairāwhiti north of Gisborne are almost fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

In one of the small towns, Te Araroa near the East Cape this week, close to 200 second doses were given over two days by local vaccinators.

In the shadow of Whetumatarau maunga and just a short stroll from Te Moana-nui-a-Kiwa, stands Hinerupe Marae.

Here, more than 100 Te Araroa locals got their second Covid-19 vaccination over two days.

Vaccinator Gina Chaffey-Aupouri, from Ngāti Porou Hauora, explained why vaccinating was so crucial for the community.

"When you're in a tight-knit community and people from out of the district come in, we don't know where they've been, so we protect ourselves so that we protect our pakeke [adults]," she said.

"Our pakeke are the most important people and our tamariki and our whole lineage and our pakeke, because they have the knowledge and the wisdom of our area and where we live and what we do and we've got to keep them safe and ensure they're protected from their tamariki that move everywhere."

As a vaccinator on the coast for about 40 years, she knew how people could feel about vaccinations.

"For some people it's really scary, and in the end the decision making process is maintaining tino rangatiratanga, ensuring that we protect people's rights and their decision making, so encouraging them and explaining in detail as they require."

Vaccinator Karen Clarke-Paenga understood why people got nervous.

"As a vaccinator I used to be terrified of needles and I even fainted when I got my ears pierced and my brother, he gives it to me all the time because of that," she said.

"It kind of gave me the passion to try and make it less painful and be more kinder and empathetic.''

She explains the process of getting the jab, which started with the pre-vaccination.

"Making sure they're well, what medications they're on, and making sure they're fully informed, they know what they're having and what's involved. And the post is when they sit in observation, up the coast they can sit there and have a kōrero and doesn't feel like they're having an injection, they're catching up with the gossip."

At the end of the two days, Chaffey-Aupouri said they had vaccinated more than 100 people.

"We've done 122 the first day, 75 today, that's 197, We did 25 firsts yesterday and 6 today and that's just brilliant. We reckon we're going to catch up the rest, because we did 210 last time."

She said after two busy days she felt well, except for in her throat.

"Somehow a frog decided to come and jump in my throat. So that's funny, I must've talked so much, telling everybody how to look after themselves. Kia ora rā."