Majority of New Zealanders say no to restricting movement until 90 percent of Māori are vaccinated

The majority of New Zealanders are against the idea of restricting travel until 90 percent of Māori aged 12 or older have been vaccinated against COVID-19.

A nationwide Horizon Research survey found 59 percent of adults don't agree with restricting movement, while 32 percent agree and 9 percent are unsure.

The figures are similar for Māori, with 33 percent agreeing with restricting movement, 54 percent disagree and 13 percent don't know.

The survey was conducted after health experts expressed concern that Māori are more vulnerable to infection, serious illness and death if infected with COVID-19. 

The Prime Minister has also admitted that the Government could have handled Māori vaccination better.

In a sit-down interview with Newshub last week, Jacinda Ardern admitted that Māori faced unnecessary barriers in the vaccination campaign this year.

"I often think about what we could have done earlier on to support our Māori providers better and I think we could have done a better job earlier on and I think they hit some brick walls earlier on that I would have liked to have dealt with better."

Currently, 86 percent of the eligible Māori population are at least partially vaccinated while 75 percent are fully vaxxed. 

However, while there have been strong calls to protect Māori populations in some regions, like Northland and the Bay of Plenty where there are many unvaccinated Māori, the majority of people living in those areas disagree with the idea of restricting their movement to do that.

Chris Bullen, who is a professor of public health at the University of Auckland's School of Population Health, says the research reflects a desire by many people to get back to life as it used to be before COVID. 

People surveyed were also asked if they supported delaying movement to help protect the unvaccinated. 

Only 19 percent supported the idea while 13 percent thought more movement of people would encourage people to get vaccinated.

Prof Bullen says the concern that greater movement might lead to a rise in COVID-19 infections of unvaccinated and vulnerable groups within the population is a valid one.

"This survey finds people want to be able to move and they think the traffic light framework protections will work, and freer movement will prompt the unvaccinated to get vaccine protection," he says. 

"Official modelling warns of a worst-case scenario of up to 16,000 COVID-19 infections a week nationwide, even if 90 percent of the population aged 12 or older is fully vaccinated.

"We haven't reached 90 percent yet - and we're going to need to take care to protect each other even when we do, and protect ourselves and others as Auckland's borders come down on December 15."