Ministry of Health agrees to release Māori vaccination data

The Ministry of Health has released the Maori vaccination details.
The Ministry of Health has released the Maori vaccination details. Photo credit: Getty Images

Matai O'Connor, RNZ

After two High Court judicial reviews, the Director-General of Health is releasing data of unvaccinated Māori in the North Island - but with clear conditions.

The Ministry of Health had 72 hours to review its decision of not releasing the data to the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency (WOCA) who went to the High Court twice.

The agency, which has a large network of Māori health providers, first took the Ministry of Health to court in October, arguing the data was critical to boosting vaccination rates and saving lives.

Officials had refused on the basis of privacy but the court said they had to reconsider.

Since then, the ministry has given out some data about unvaccinated Māori in Waikato and Auckland, but the agency went back to court late last month, seeking individual data for every unvaccinated Māori in Te Ika-a-Māui.

In a letter sent to WOCA late last night, Dr Ashley Bloomfield laid out what data they will release - as well as the iwi who opposed the release - so there are a number of conditions applied by the ministry in releasing the information.

WOCA requested the data of all Māori who have not yet had a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine and who live in Bay of Plenty, Hawke's Bay, Lakes, Northland, Wairarapa and Whanganui DHB areas.

For these individuals, the data would include their name, personal contact details such as address, phone number and National Health Index number (NHI).

Bloomfield has agreed to providing WOCA and Whānau Tahi with data relating to all unvaccinated Māori in Northland, Hawke's Bay, and Whanganui but a reduced amount of data on those in Wairarapa, Lakes DHB, and Bay of Plenty as some iwi in those areas oppose the release of data to WOCA or would like to enter a data-matching agreement with the ministry.

Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency chief executive John Tamihere says the data is too little, too late.

"So resistantly and reluctantly, we finally get it and the Auckland border opens in four days time, it takes about 5-6 days to mine it and then bring our regions together to work out a redeployment of our assets against information now that we can target for the very first time our vaccination capability that is not going to be able to be worked with this data before Christmas.

"It's a sense of sabotage, here's the remarkable thing about it, it's pre-meditated, if it was by mistake I'd get it but this chap has been absolutely resistant at every turn for this and trying to find every excuse."

Tamihere doesn't know when he will get the data into his hands.

He said they will wait for the release.

"If we could have got this earlier in September we would be well in advance.

"In the first case he argued we didn't have capacity or capability. That if we got it we would be intimidatory and naughty to people and undermine the vaccine progress and a breach of privacy and the rest, he was struck down, on what we would call the pākehātanga." Tamihere said.

In the letter, Bloomfield said that Rangitāne Tū Mai Rā and Ngāti Kahungunu ki Wairarapa Tamaki nui-a-Rua expressed opposition to data sharing with WOCA and have requested this data through their Ko Wairarapa Tēnei Collective.

He said that only 98 more Māori individuals in Wairarapa need to be vaccinated in order to achieve 90 percent first vaccination rate for Māori in the area.

"This achievement has been as a result of Ko Wairarapa Tēnei Collective efforts to increase their vaccination rates," Bloomfield said.

He said that in agreeing to share the data with WOCA, his expectation is for WOCA to work closely with iwi on the ground to ensure efforts are coordinated and considerate of community mahi.

He also agreed to provide WOCA and Whānau Tahi with data relating to Māori living in the Lakes DHB area, who have not yet had a first dose of a Covid vaccine but excluding data for the people of Ngāti Tarāwhai Iwi Trust Board.

"This iwi has entered into a data-matching agreement with the ministry to have its data excluded from the dataset shared with WOCA," Bloomfield said.

"This data matching exercise is underway, and only whānau who live within the Lakes DHB boundary will be excluded as part of the data matching. I understand this approach is acceptable to you, as communicated by your lawyer on 7 December," Bloomfield stated in the letter.

Bloomfield will provide WOCA and Whānau Tahi with data relating to Māori living in the Bay of Plenty DHB area who have not yet had a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

He notes opposition from five iwi in the area to data sharing with WOCA.

Ngāi Tai Iwi Authority has requested an arrangement similar to what has been agreed in relation to Ngāti Whatua Orakei.

"Where WOCA commissioned providers identify that a person is affiliated with Ngāi Tai Iwi Authority, it will: inform Ngāitai Iwi Authority that the provider has been in contact with the person or whānau, the result of that contact and the relevant information so that Ngāitai Iwi Authority can decide whether to follow-up with the whānau and seek to engage with them based on their connections and relationships.

"I anticipate that other iwi may request similar arrangements, and propose that WOCA and the ministry agree to work in good faith to agree similar arrangements in the event that any other iwi seeks a bespoke data sharing arrangement akin to what is reflected for Ngāti Whatua Ōrakei," Bloomfield stated.

WOCA also had a second request for the Ministry of Health to disclose data for purposes of reaching Māori who have had a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, but who have not yet had a second dose.

The request is for this data for all people who identified as Māori in the health datasets, and who live in the North Island. The data would include their name, personal contact details, phone number and NHI.

The ministry had previously offered to provide this dataset for the purposes of reaching Māori who have not yet recieved their second dose of Covid-19 vaccine, including individuals who have no future vaccine booking for their second vaccine and it has been eight weeks or more since their first vaccine.

Bloomfield has agreed to provide WOCA and Whānau Tahi with data relating to Māori in the North Island who have had a first dose of Covid-19 vaccine, but who have not yet had a second dose, in the following tranches:

At 3-4 weeks following a first dose of vaccine, who are not enrolled with a primary care provider and do not have a booking.

At 6 weeks following a first dose of vaccine, including those who are enrolled with another primary care provider and who do not have a booking for a second dose.

Bloomfield said this is because people who are enrolled with a provider often have an established relationship with that provider.

"Many providers will be using their own systems and processes to follow-up and arrange for a second dose of vaccine," he said.

"We consider it important to reduce the potential for Māori to receive multiple phone calls from multiple service providers, including Whakarongorau, Whānau Ora, as well as their own primary healthcare provider. Our expectation is that you will use this data to assist Māori to access a second dose of vaccine."

The Director-General also set out some arrangements in the letter.

"As you are aware, a number of iwi across Te Ika a Māui remain opposed to the sharing of people's individual-level data with WOCA. A range of reasons have been expressed for this including that individual consent should be sought from those individuals who may be contacted from WOCA and that iwi have a legitimate interest in the protection of the data relating to their people and those living in their takiwā.

"The data being requested is Māori data, further Māori data is subject to the rights articulated in the Treaty of Waitangi and the UN Declaration on the rights of Indigenous peoples," Bloomfield said.

He proposes that the data sharing agreement between the organistions include that data provided may only be used to support Covid-19 vaccination service planning, monitoring, invitation, delivery and quality improvement for Māori who are not fully vaccinated.

Bloomfield has an expectation they will work with WOCA providers, relevant iwi and other providers to coordinate out-reach and support access to Covid-19 vaccinations for Māori who are not fully vaccinated; to have clear answer when people people who are contacted ask where the provider got their details and how they know the person is unvaccinated; WOCA will delete information relating to anyone who advises they do not want their data to be held by the applicant; and the data supplied is to be retained until no later than 30 June 2022, after that date the information is to be securely destroyed.