16 Sep 2021

Buses a 'self-determined' vaccination initiative for socially excluded: Māori health advocates

12:20 pm on 16 September 2021

Māori health leaders in Auckland say today's roll-out of buses and mobile clinics are part of a long-overdue vaccination outreach programme tailored to the needs of their communities.

The new vaccination buses are given a blessing before being sent out into Auckland communities.

Photo: RNZ / Mariner Fagaiva-Muller

The first in a series of vaccination buses aimed at boosting the number of Covid jabs in South Auckland, are now on the road.

The buses, organised by the region's district health boards, will act as mobile pop-up vehicles with vaccines administered off the fitted-out vehicles to allow appropriate social distancing.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern wants to see 80 percent of eligible Aucklanders with at least one dose by Monday.

Henderson and Papakura are among the areas that will get a visit.

The Waipareira Trust said the buses and mobile vaccination clinics form part of a programme designed to vaccinate Auckland's Māori and Pasifika, many of whom were working poor and unemployed ill-served by the health system.

Trust CEO John Tamihere said those people would otherwise fall beneath the cracks of a programme tailored for middle-class New Zealand and designed by people who had little insight into social barriers of other social classes.

"You have to understand most of our people are on the dole. They're priorities aren't middle-class priorities of vaccines at all costs. They're priorities are trying to get one foot in front of the other at $28,000 or less a year," he said.

John Tamihere at Te Whānau O Waipareira's new Covid-19 vaccination clinic.

John Tamihere says the rollout programme was designed by middle-class health officials with little insight into social barriers of his community and others. Photo: Twitter / Te Whānau O Waipareira

"Then you have another part of our people who are the working poor, under $50,000, so we have to design programmes that reach these cohorts of people, because all programmes are designed for middle-class white New Zealanders.

"We just have to step back a bit and allow us to get into the game of designing these things."

He said such initiatives had come six months too late.

Papakura GP Matire Harwood said it was correct that Māori and Pasifika communities led their own vaccination drives and that it had been unacceptable those communities had suffered health service inequity when it came to vaccination levels.

"That has been part of the problem, that ability for our DHB and health system to hand over the power and the funding with that for us to be able to come up with self-determined solutions - things that are actually going to work for us," she said.

"The solutions have been led by people who don't know our text, who don't know our whānau, who don't understand some of the reasons they can't come in for vaccinations.

"We've had to come up with it ourselves and not only fight for our whānau but fight the system to be able to do this properly with evidence-based treatments that we have a right to. This is life-saving."

Papakura Marae's Tony Kake said the mobile outreach initiative increased capacity and giving options for local communities.

"I think it's about opening up more choice for our whanau. If it means we can get a bus and more opportunities to get access the better."

Buses operated by the Waipareira Trust would include loudspeakers to play music and alert people to the presence of vaccinators, who would target both 'the willing and the hesitant'.

Earlier, Associate Health Minister Aupito William Sio told Morning Report particularly areas with low vaccination rates had been identified by DHBs and that the buses would focus on these neighbourhoods.

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Associate Health Minister Aupito William emphasised the bus initiative would continue for months. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

Māori and Pasifika health providers would partner to run some of the bus operations, which had already led to innovative ways of reaching communities.

"One of the Pacific providers, South Seas Healthcare... next Monday they are looking to partner with E tū and New Zealand Post in East Tāmaki and they're looking at about 1000 workers there," Sio said.

"The bus will arrive and workers and their families can turn up. At level 4 and level 3 the vaccination will take place outside."

There will be three buses on the road this morning and three this afternoon, he added.

Door knocking on streets may be carried out today, while adhering to alert-level 4 social distancing and other health restrictions, but the initiative would last months, Sio said.

"Obviously this is going to be for some time yet. Our goal is to make sure that for the next four months we provide the opportunity for anyone and everybody eligible to get vaccinated."

High vaccination rates among Māori and Pacific peoples critical - Doctor

Emergency medicine specialist John Bonning says by the time lightning strike victims arrive at hospital, they're either "dead, or alive and going to be fine"

John Bonning is part of a group of doctors battling misinformation. Photo: RNZ / Kate Newton

A leading medical specialist Dr John Bonning said everything possible must be tried to boost vaccinations rates of Māori and Pasifika and that doctors were playing their part in giving assurance about the vaccines.

Bonning, a Waikato emergency department doctor, told Morning Report a petition signed by 5000 doctors backing the vaccination programme was aimed at emphasising the vaccination was the best protection against Covid-19.

The doctors particularly wanted to target hesitancy and address those confused or alarmed by social media misinformation.

"We wanted to be a strong and positive voice answering people's questions and giving certainty," he said.

"It is the unvaccinated that are overwhelmingly harmed by this [disease]. They are four-and-a-half times more likely catch the disease, 10 times more likely to the hospitalised, 11 times more likely to die and that is really, really concerning... So we really need to protect our vulnerable populations, our rural, regional, Māori and Pasifika."

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