19 Nov 2021

Claims digital Vaccine Pass discriminates against Māori

5:33 pm on 19 November 2021

Anyone who is fully vaccinated against Covid-19 is able to request a vaccination pass, but a Māori data expert warns the registration process disproportionately impacts Māori and those who do not have internet connectivity.

Whānau relax after getting their Covid-19 jabs at the whole-of-community Rātana vaccination clinic on Friday 6 August.

A Māori academic fears that many rural Māori will have problems accessing vaccination passes. Photo: LDR / Moana Ellis

My Vaccine Pass was launched on Wednesday and thousands of people went online to log in, or sign up to request their pass.

Dr Karaitiana Taiuru is an academic and advocate for Māori digital rights, and has noticed a number of issues with the process to get your vaccine pass sorted.

"Many Māori live rurally, and many kaumātua do not know how to use a cell phone or the internet," he said.

He said pockets of whānau do not have access to the internet and are rural and some do not even know what a vaccine pass is.

"Essentially those people need a landline to ring and manually order a postal version, but that itself is a huge barrier as many rural people do not have a landline," he said.

"The person has to have access to a computer, or a cell phone with data and an email address that no one else uses or has access to. Depending on how they log in, they need cell phone coverage to get the SMS with a security code using RealMe.

"On top of that, the individual has to be reasonably tech-savvy and have a good understanding of the English language to read and comprehend privacy policies, terms and conditions. The whole works.

"We are actually discriminating against people who don't have connectivity and the elderly.

Karaitiana Taiuru from the Christchurch Heart Institute.

Karaitiana Taiuru from the Christchurch Heart Institute. Photo: Supplied/Heart Foundation

"I know a lot of kaumātua that might have a cell phone, but doesn't know how to use it. They don't have the internet, they don't have data on their phone, and especially a lot of them, their fingers are too big to operate a phone because many have been labourers and factory workers.

"I just don't think these issues have been considered."

Dr Taiuru said another issue is security.

"Once the pass gets sent to your email account, what's stopping someone from stealing it or manipulating it?" he said.

He has seen people posting screenshots of their vaccine pass on Facebook.

"I'm PM'ing people saying you shouldn't really do that. They are showing their vax pass and being proud about it without actually realising the privacy breach and security issues. That is not made clear on the website. I think I may have read one sentence warning people about it."

Dr Taiuru said a solution could be that the government could work with various Māori health organisations, social services, iwi authority or even marae to help provide access to getting the vaccine pass.

"I think if people could go somewhere to get a printed copy, that would be ideal. But I think there needed to be more conversation about how to cater to everybody's needs.

"A lot of people don't have printers any more, people might lose their cellphone, or get stolen, or what happens when their technology they own dies, how do they get another copy?"

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Photo: Robert Kelly

"I think it's [the pass] is a good idea, but I think they have failed in their communication about it. I have spoken with rangatahi Māori who have never heard of the pass, but after I told them about it went on Google and started to learn about it.

"If it was co-designed with Māori, or had more consultation with Māori, it would have helped. I would expect the Ministry of Health did consult with the likes of the National Iwi Chairs Forum, but didn't go further, or if they did, they ignored their advice," he said.

"There is an issue that if you don't have the vaccine pass, you have to have had a test within 72 hours that has returned a negative result. How are rural people meant to get to a testing clinic, then get back home, and how are they meant to get the result sent to them?"

The Ministry of Health would not answer any of RNZ's specific queries on the issue.

But in a statement, the Ministry said it is considering face-to-face channels for people to obtain their My Vaccine Pass and is asking people to be patient because My Vaccine Pass will not be needed until the country moves to the Covid-19 Protection Framework.

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