Coronavirus: Jacinda Ardern tours regions with lowest vaccination rates

Jacinda Ardern played hype woman for one local getting their vaccination.
Jacinda Ardern played hype woman for one local getting their vaccination. Photo credit: Image - Newshub

By Tom Kitchin for RNZ

The Government's beefing up efforts to vaccinate Māori against COVID-19 by getting the Prime Minister out on the road.

Jacinda Ardern is on a quickfire tour of the eastern North Island, where some of the vaccination rates are the lowest, and was in Hastings this morning.

Cars lined up at Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga for their vaccinations at its drive-through clinic, operating on Fridays and Saturdays.

Raiha Tahuri, 27, was excited about the company she had while getting her first vaccine.

"I got vaccinated with the Prime minister and two Labour ministers [Meka Whaitiri and Kiri Allan] in the car as well," she said.

"It was a cool experience, I didn't plan to do this today, I've been trying to hype myself up to get it, and I think today, Jacinda hyped me up to get it."

She had some reservations on getting the vaccine, and wanted to do research.

"I'm not a vaccinated child, so I haven't had any other vaccinations throughout my life... so those were my reservations, I have a big fear of needles."

But now, she felt she had done the research and said the Prime Minister gave her the final push.

"Yeah I think it was the prime minister that got me over the line to be honest. She genuinely looks deep, like real deep into my eyes and asks 'would you be willing to be vaccinated because I was willing to support you?' and I said 'yes', I genuinely said 'yes as a role model for others my age as well, 'cause we've got the lowest rates.''

In Hastings, just over 30 percent of Māori are fully vaccinated, while it was about 65 percent for both Pasifika and Asian - and about 55 percent for Pākehā and others.

Te Taiwhenua o Heretaunga chairman Mike Paku said rangatahi desperately needed the jab.

"It is our under-29s - they're the big unvaccinated group that we have. [We have] good uptake from our kaumātua and kuia, so it is that younger age group, and that's where the bulk of our population is."

He believed they still had time up their sleeves before the virus could seep in.

"I think we have a window that's still open to us, as a country and as a Māori community and it's supposed to be a four to six week window. We need to make the most of that window. As we see, I think elimination is kind of out the window."

'Keep foot on the pedal'

Te Taiwhenua o Te Whanganui a Orotū chief executive Tania Eden said her organisation had been helping with the rollout in and around Napier.

"We've been rolling it out at our marae, we also stood up a drive-through at the Hawke's Bay Rugby Union. Now we just need to keep the foot on the pedal here."

She said that was because there had been a drop-off, and it was particularly poor in Napier's most deprived suburb, Maraenui.

"We're finding it's flatlining now, Māori aren't coming and getting vaccinated. For example there's 37 percent in Maraenui that have received one vaccination and only 19 percent in Maraenui have had two vaccinations, so that's a major concern for us."

Nationwide, Māori first dose vaccination rates are sitting at about 600 per 1000 people, compared to 820 for Pākehā, about 970 for Asian and 750 for Pasifika.

Ardern explained why she was on the tour.

"Yesterday, and for the next couple of days, [I have] an absolute focus on promoting the vaccine programme across New Zealand but also hearing from our providers on the ground what more we can make sure we're doing to support their efforts."

Dialogue with Māori leaders

She was having conversations with Māori leaders.

"What can we do to make sure that we're now reaching our rangatahi as well, so that means making sure that our messages answer their questions, that we've got trusted people that they trust who are involved in the rollout and that we hear what it is that's making them be a bit more hesitant.''

Ardern visited Rotorua and Murupara yesterday. Today she also travelled to Wairoa, Flaxmere and Gisborne,

She will continue her visit over the Tairāwhiti Gisborne region tomorrow.