29 Oct 2021

Vaccine rollout needed more iwi, community involvement - Ōtara locals

From Checkpoint, 5:27 pm on 29 October 2021

As Auckland DHBs rocket towards the 90 percent double dose rates needed to open up the region, some of the city's suburbs are being left behind.

Locals in Ōtara's west side say the vaccination rollout could've been better managed by the government.

Meanwhile, the suburbs healthcare providers are gearing up for another vaccination drive this weekend.

In Ōtara's west, only 53.5 percent of the population have had both Covid-19 vaccination doses. It is nearly 20 percent below the nationwide rate of 72 percent.

"My biggest frustration is the fact that South Auckland is painted in this certain picture," one man in the area told Checkpoint.

"I saw an article in the NZ Herald that outed Counties-Manukau. And I guess that to me just drives the divide in society.

"I feel like if there was much more involvement with … iwi groups and community groups from the beginning, then we wouldn't be in the situation where we are now, where we're struggling to get people to get vaccinated."

He is fully vaccinated, but many of his neighbours - nearly half those eligible - are not.

"We need to acknowledge the fact there are certain people in the community who don't trust authority. They might use this as a motive to rebel against what society is trying to


For others, getting information from a trusted authority is the challenge.

"I always ring, but it's hard, very hard to get in touch with doctors and nurses," one woman said.

She supports vaccination and is fully vaccinated, but she knows many who are not.

Neighbours say the conspiracies have gripped some in this community faster than the facts.

"Some people might think there's magnetic things in it or something. But I just advise them to get it done. If it's going to save lives and many more," one man said.

A mother in the neighbourhood said she changed her mind after being initially against the vaccine.

"For me personally, it took me a while to decide if I was going to get it. It took me a few months, but then I did research. And changed my mind."

In the fight against fiction with fact is Irata Passi, site manager at South Seas' Ōtara vaccination centre.

"There are a few cars where we ask the question: 'What makes you come now for your first dose?' Mostly it's the workers. They want to travel, they still want to have their job of course."

But with double dose rates still down in the 50 percent area, it is time for a new tool. The city has seen 'vaxxi taxis', Covid caravans and 'Shot bro' buses, but how about the good old fashioned door knock?

"We're planning to do our home visits," Passi said.

"There are some barriers like changing address, changing phone numbers, so we're going to a current address, door knocking. Just [to] be there, promote the vaccine and then offer the vaccines to our elderly people at home.

It has been a battle, and some wonder if the war has already been lost.

"It's been this big scramble, and it's been positive, seeing what South Seas is doing and informing people.

"But I guess the question is, is it a little bit too late? Because already we're driving that divide… it's that narrative - nothing good comes out of South Auckland."