Paediatric vaccines rollout: Call for more suitable times for tamariki to receive shots

8:37 pm on 9 February 2022

Three weeks into the rollout of the paediatric Covid-19 vaccine, 42 percent of those aged five to 11 have had their first dose.

Two children get their first Covid-19 vaccination on the first day New Zealand children aged under 12 were able to be vaccinated against the virus.

Two children get vaccinated on the first day the paediatric vaccine was available. Photo: RNZ/ Marika Khabazi

There are 476,000 tamariki eligible for the vaccine. Twenty-four percent of tamariki Māori have had their first dose, while Pasifika are at 32 percent.

Capital and Coast District Health Boards are above the national total at 57 percent for total population followed by Auckland at 56 percent. Māori in those DHBs are at 38 percent.

The lowest is Northland at 23 percent and Māori in that DHB are at 14 percent.

Waitākere Hospital paediatrician Dr Owen Sinclair said the rollout started at a difficult time for whānau as it was before schools started and people were still away.

"I think the Ministry of Health promised to do better, to learn from what happened in the adult vaccine rollout. That clearly hasn't happened yet with these quite large disparities. In fact, it's worse than what happened with adults. I think that's the most disappointing thing in my mind."

He said Māori health providers are becoming scapegoats for what is a completely failed system.

"The MOH have said they have difficulty engaging with Māori health providers, but they do very good analysis about whether those providers are researched enough to do it."

He said that on average Māori health providers received fewer resources.

"What I would like the MOH and current health system to do is look at why they can't achieve equitable outcomes, what is the problem? It appears to me that they haven't really looked at that in any depth. Why there was so much failure in the overall system - that hasn't been analysed at all.

"Why can't the system that's designed for all New Zealanders, do it for all New Zealanders?"

Dr Sinclair is one of only six Māori paediatricians in New Zealand and uses this as an example of how under-researched Māori health is in New Zealand.

"It is very hard to rely on a Māori health workforce to deliver these results," he said.

Dr Sinclair said that given almost 96 percent of eligible New Zealanders have been vaccinated, it shows people are not hesitant about it.

"The reason why Māori and Pasifika aren't getting vaccinated has nothing to do with attitude, it's got to do with people having access to the vaccine at times that suit them.

He said eventually 90 percent of all children aged 5 to 11 will be vaccinated.

"I'm not convinced that parents are being hesitant of needing to be convinced is the issue. The issue is getting a system that works to deliver it in a time when busy working families, particularly poor families, can get there to do it.

"This is the final part of the strategy. Getting children vaccinated will create a web of protection to both protect their friends, their whānau and family and protect all the things in life they enjoy.

"We don't want to go to lockdowns, we want kids being able to play sport on Saturdays, go to movies, have time with their friends and go to school."

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