Marae drive-thru vaccines: 'I want to do it in my own community'

4:55 pm on 1 September 2021

Car loads of people queued up at Auckland's first drive-thru vaccination site at a marae today, an initiative many hope will boost low vaccination rates among Māori.

Te Rangiura Royal with his mum Matire Harwood at Auckland's first drive-thru vaccination site.

Te Rangiura Royal with his mum Matire Harwood at Auckland's first drive-thru vaccination site. Photo: RNZ / Te Aniwa Hurihanganui

Thirty-five staff are manning the site at Papakura Marae and expect to vaccinate 500 people a day.

Fifteen-year-old Te Rangiura Royal was masked-up and ready to go.

The Kings College student was a little on-edge to be among the first young teens in the country to be vaccinated, with 12 to 15-year-olds now eligible.

"I'm nervous. I just hope it doesn't hurt," he said.

Te Rangiura was joined by his mum, Māori GP Matire Harwood.

"I'm more nervous he is going to faint on camera, and I just thought of all the children who were going to faint on camera it would be my child," she joked.

The pair could have gotten vaccinated at any number of vaccine sites in South-Auckland, but they specifically wanted it done at a place they felt most at home.

"We were invited to go to the vaccine centre at the airport over the weekend and I talked to him about it but he said, 'no mum, I want to do it in my own community,' so that's why we came here."

Papakura Marae chief executive Tony Kake said that was exactly why vaccination sites at marae were so vital - because they were places Māori knew and trusted.

"Whanau Māori have trust and confidence in our marae and I kind of say that in a little bit of a gloating way but that's a fact," he said.

"We really want to encourage our whanau Māori to get out to any of the vaccination centres, not only at Papakura Marae but anywhere across the nation."

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Photo: RNZ / Te Aniwa Hurihanganui

It's a message Labour's Maori MPs are driving home too, after coming under increasing pressure to get Māori vaccination rates up.

Willie Jackson today accepted the government's pandemic response could have been better in some areas, but from today changes were being made, including a new online portal on the Te Puni Kokiri website where Māori could get important information about vaccines in one place.

"All that information gies out at one o'clock everyday when the Prime Minister is talking so that our people will know what the vaccination rates are, [and] will know which marae to go to," he said.

Meanwhile, the Papakura Marae drive through will be open from nine to four every weekday and there's no need to book.

Kake said the process was easy as.

"First of all, you line up outside on the road there, you get a big kia ora, kia ora, welcome, welcome! They do a quick screen, get your NHI number, get your details. From there, come on through to our vaccination and get a jab," he said.

"We do left arms and rights arms, whatever window is free we'll put one in!"

Vaccination Programme Director Matt Hannant, from the Northern Region Health Coordination Centre, said it could be the first of many marae drive-thrus across Auckland.

"We're absolutely exploring that, we're having all sorts of conversations with lots of different providers," he said.

"The drive-thru model is proving really popular with the community. We've done over 40,000 people through the drive-thrus that we have at the airport and at the Trust Arena."

The 35 staff working at Papakura Marae's drive-thru hope to vaccinated 500 people a day.

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