6 Oct 2021

Labour, National in agreement over need to increase Māori Covid-19 vaccination rate

12:00 pm on 6 October 2021

Māori vaccination rates have "absolutely been front of mind" for the government in decision making, Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins says.

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File image. Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

According to the latest Ministry of Health (MOH) figures, 326,097 Māori have had their first doses, and 181,556 have had their second dose. That's 571 people per thousand who have had a first dose and 318 per thousand who have had a second dose.

Māori have the lowest vaccine uptake of the four major ethnicities tracked by the MOH - the others being Pacific peoples, Asian and European or other.

Hipkins told Morning Report: "Of the reasons why we are stepping down very carefully after our current restrictions is that we don't want to rush this and we don't want to see a big surge in Covid-19 cases as a result of that because we are acutely aware that there are pockets in our communities that do have higher concentrations of Māori, higher concentrations of people in lower socioeconomic neighbourhoods who have not been vaccinated, and we need to get those rates up."

Everybody needed to take responsibility for those low vaccination rates, Hipkins said.

"It's a fairly bold vaccine model that we're providing. We're providing the vaccines and the funding to those on the front line.

"What I have been doing in the last few weeks - I've been meeting with our Māori health providers and saying 'What more do you need In order to get this done?'.

"Data has been a big issue, so they've been ground finding that the data hasn't flowed back to them around who has been vaccinated in a way that's been easy for them to work with.

"So we've been working to clear that blockage so that they can get good information so they can really target their efforts."

That data included where the neighbourhoods that had the highest concentrations of unvaccinated people, for example.

"We've been giving that information to them, which will allow them to better target their efforts.

"But look, everyone over the next few weeks is going to have to play a role here. Those who are listening to this who are saying, 'Well, I'm vaccinated, this is no longer my issue', actually if you know people who aren't vaccinated, then it's still your issue. We just need everybody to be pulling out all the stops to get those who aren't vaccinated in, in order to be vaccinated."

National Party leader Judith Collins told Morning Report her party did not want to single out Māori as the group holding back the rest of the country or Auckland from having their normal rights and their freedoms.

"We don't think that is the smart thing or the right thing to do. We think it is very important that the big focus has to be on getting as many people vaccinated as possible.

"We need to get those Māori rates up, but we need to get the rates up for everybody and that is the point, isn't it?

"We're not going to discriminate and… Covid doesn't discriminate on ethnicity. What it does do is it has worse effects on people who have comorbidities."