COVID-19: Māori health experts praise Super Saturday but warn there's much more to do

Māori health experts say more work needs to be done to target hard to access communities despite the "hugely positive" success of Super Saturday's Vaxathon.

New Zealand successfully vaccinated more people against COVID-19 on Saturday than on any single day previously with over 130,000 doses administered - beating the previous record of 90,000.

Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the record-breaking numbers provided a "huge boost" to the country's fight against coronavirus.

Associate Health Minister and Minister for Whānau Ora Peeni Henare told Newshub he agreed, saying it was "hugely positive".

"I was really inspired by a lot of the community togetherness," he said. 

"I visited a number of sites where the community was fully engaged. It was great to see right up and down the country. Hugely positive. All of the feedback that I have received and witnessed for myself is absolutely stunning." 

He said not only had New Zealanders come in to get vaccinated, but many vaccine-hesitant Kiwis had also come along to learn more about the jab.

"They went away better informed and hopefully they will come forward soon to receive the vaccine."

Dr Rawiri McKree Jansen, the co-leader of the Māori pandemic response group Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā, spent Saturday on the road visiting a range of health providers and events.

He wrote in a blog post he thought the day had been "pretty good", answering questions, forming relationships and getting Kiwis vaccinated.

"I have been fortunate enough to have been invited to a couple of vaccination information events that were gang organised and they wanted a GP like myself to turn up and answer some questions about COVID and the vaccine," he told Newshub. 

"Both of those went really well and I was impressed at the totally brilliant organisation they had on the day. They had food parcels and a whole lot of support for their network and they asked some really intriguing questions."

He said the gang community wanted to talk about their own medical conditions, their medications and how the vaccine would affect that.

"Some of them wanted to ask 'does it make you magnetic' because they had seen it on their social media channels.

"People just wanted the opportunity to ask questions and have them answered".

However, both Henare and Jansen said the work isn't over yet.

"Thought you were tired after Super Saturday? Well, take a deep breath, we've got more to do. Much more to do," Jansen said.

He is particularly concerned about Kiwis "who are more precarious in emergency housing, and not in any organised social groups".

"That group is still really hard to reach and I think there is a lot of work to do in supporting them to get vaccinated," he said.

Henare was particularly concerned about rural New Zealanders.

"I'm still a little bit worried and while, yes, Saturday was a great success, but we still look towards Māori vaccination numbers in a number of our regions around the country which are still lagging behind… 

"The challenge is to continue the momentum and there is a good sense of optimism that we can get there but it's going to take some time. I suppose with those who are sitting on the fence, it's going to take even longer to make sure that we can bring them forward to receive the vaccine."