18 Nov 2021

PM Jacinda Ardern: Tairāwhiti 'only 2500 doses away' from 90% vaccine target

1:17 pm on 18 November 2021

The Prime Minister says Gisborne is "not much" away from the target of 90 percent first doses, two weeks out from the expected start of the traffic light system.

Watch the PM's media conference here:

Jacinda Ardern is supporting the vaccination roadshow around Tairāwhiti and spoke to media in Gisborne.

"Here in this region, at 84 percent first doses, they're actually only 2500 doses away from hitting that 90 percent target which we know is so important," Ardern said.

Ardern said she was back in Tairāwhiti because it was one of the regions where the work that's being done is "just so important for us".

"At this stage if the region that was still well under the 90 percent target it would expect to be moving to the Red setting when the country shifts to the traffic light system," she said, but "we have seen things move very quickly and as I say 2500 doses is not much".

The roadshow is part of efforts to support vaccination in Tairāwhiti, which remains the lowest region on both first and second doses as a percentage of the population.

Many Māori also live in the region. There are widespread concerns at the lower vaccination rate among Māori, who are at higher risk from Covid-19 and are less likely to engage with the health system where there are clear inequities.

It comes as the government signed another 26 contracts with Māori health providers to help accelerate the Covid-19 vaccine rollout for Māori.

The $46.75 million of spending is the second tranche of a $60m package announced last month.

The money will be divided up between Whānau Ora and iwi providers in the North and South Islands, but most will go to Northland, where 11 contracts have been signed.

Ardern said there would be concern about movement out of Auckland, but the protection of vaccination or testing requirements would be in place.

"Ultimately Auckland have done a very important job for us but they will have by that time done that for almost four months. We do need to keep moving but we will keep moving as safely as possible."

She said the government was working with Northland on what the checks will be there, because vaccination rates are around 83 percent, "lower than we would like", but operational arrangements are up to police.

She said the gap between general population vaccination rates and Māori vaccination rates had largely closed for older people, but now the job was to give the vaccine to more younger people.

Ardern was joined by East Coast MP Kiri Allan who praised efforts in the community which had resulted in a "huge pickup" in vaccination numbers.

Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare was asked if he had done enough in Cabinet to make sure Māori providers had all the resources they needed.

He said "110 percent."

"The reason I say that is at the start of the vaccination process you had to store it a -70C, you couldn't do that in Ruatoria, you could only do that centrally. That's why it took some time to get the infrastructure to become mobile and to be able to take these vaccines to where the people are."

He acknowledged this was being done as early as July, and said taking the service to Ruatoria was just the first step.

"Actually the bigger step is working with our families to make sure that they feel comfortable to engage ... let's be very clear, in Māori communities like this, it isn't about the event, it's about the work that leads up to it."

Māori-Crown Relations Minister Kelvin Davis said Māori providers and organisations were doing the hard yards and delivering, with significant progress made in the past month.

"We are seeing everything from TikTok, kapa haka and music being used to reach rangatahi and our kaimahi are doing the hard yards and door knocking to drum up vaccinations and answer those important questions whānau have," he said in a statement.

About 77 percent of Māori have had at least one dose of the vaccine, which Māori development minister Willie Jackson said was encouraging, but that's still well behind other groups, and Māori health providers have long criticised the speed and design of the government's rollout for Māori.

"Covid is out there whānau and moving fast we need to get this mahi done, we are continuing to work at pace to vaccinate every sector of society because no one is safe from Covid until we all are," Jackson said.

He said there was still another $13.25m left to allocate, and with dozens of contracts still being worked through.

Another $60m was also announced by the government last month to help Māori to protect their communities from Covid-19, with Māori now the group most afflicted by the virus.

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