Fears young Māori being targeted by white supremacists making COVID-19 vaccine misinformation

It is feared young Māori in particular are falling for COVID-19 vaccine misinformation - much of which is being created by white supremacists.

Research shows many of the anti-vax memes circulating on the internet have been created by alt-right and white supremacist groups based in the United States. They have gone from 'stop the steal' to 'stop the vaccine'.

Professor of preventative medicine at Otago University Sue Crengle told the Hui that "whanau have to think about why these groups might be comfortable encouraging Māori, who are more at risk from COVID, not to get vaccinated".

"It suits their agenda to attract a whole new audience who previously would not have been attracted to them," she says.

While 89 percent of Māori aged 65-plus have had at least one vaccination, just 40 percent of Māori aged 12-34 have been jabbed. The influence of social media is being blamed.

One video doing the rounds shows people sticking spoons or coins on their arm where they have been vaccinated to try to prove the vaccines are magnetic.

Māori virologist Dr Natalie Netzler says these videos are damaging and false.

"There are no magnets in the vaccine. People have admitted they made these videos as a joke but there is a real risk with this kind of disinformation," she says.

She is urging Māori to get vaccinated quickly as the reality is we can't stay closed off forever. She says people are begging for the vaccine on their deathbed overseas and you need two shots to be fully protected.

"People can't wait until the last minute. Time is running out".

Prof Crengle wants young Māori to think of the wider community when it comes to vaccination.

"Vaccination is a personal choice but it's more complex when it comes to something like COVID-19. COVID affects more than one person - it affects the whole population," she says.

"I know a lot of whanau don't trust the government and for good reason. We have had a terrible experience of colonisation. But the trials show the vaccine is really safe and effective and the first person who got it were old Pākehā white people.

"If it wasn't safe they wouldn't be giving it to them first".