20 Sep 2021

Māori King and other leaders endorse Pfizer vaccine

2:44 pm on 20 September 2021

Māori King Tuheitia and other senior figures have banded together to encourage Māori to get their Covid vaccines.

Kiingi Tūheitia at Ihumātao.

File photo: Kiingi Tūheitia at Ihumātao Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Tuheitia, along with the Tumuaki o te Kiingitanga, Anaru Tamihana, and the Ariki o Tuwharetoa, Tā Tumu Te Heuheu, have all endorsed the Pfizer vaccine.

They say they have all had it, and are encouraging others to protect their whānau and whakapapa.

"This is an important step in ensuring our reo, our Tikanga and everything about being Māori stays here for generations to come," the trio said in their signed statement.

Kiingitanga chief of staff Ngira Simmonds said a joint announcement from the country's three remaining Ariki lines was significant.

"They understand the impacts of history, they understand why Māori might be rightly so a little bit suspicous about our health system, about this government because history has not been kind to us," Simmonds said.

"But they have come together to try and offer this word of encourangement to our people."

Vaccination rates for Māori are currently lagging behind all other ethnic groups, by significant margins in some areas.

The proclamation came as it was confirmed that Covid-19 had spilled across the Auckland border into Waikato hāpori, with three cases confirmed on the Hauraki Plains.

Simmonds said people in Waikato were anxious, and everyone had a heightened sense of awareness.

"[Tuheitia's] message is, 'OK now what do we need to do to protect our people? That's observing social distancing, wearing your mask, sanitising, getting the vaccine."

At the pop-up testing centre at Wharekawa Marae, at Kaiaua, the Waikato town at the centre of the latest cases, Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki had found itself busy.

By midday, more than 250 people had passed through the marae for tests, and many more were expected through the afternoon, said chief executive Riana Manuel.

"It's very busy today," she said. "It would be fair to say that people are feeling fairly anxious, but once again testimony to our small rural communities, they just get in there."

"I'm hoping our people will listen and that they'll get in and do their vaccinations. I hope that our influencers - there's a lot of our Māori influencers - that they get out there and they influence our young people to get their vaccination so that we can get as many people across the line as possible."

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