Minister Kelvin Davis rebuked by Green MP Elizabeth Kerekere for 'pointing the finger' at Māori over COVID-19 vaccination rates

Māori-Crown Relations Minister Kelvin Davis is facing backlash from a Green MP after he denied the Government is solely responsible for low Māori vaccination rates. 

Just 21 percent of eligible - aged 12-plus - Māori have had two COVID-19 jabs so far, compared to 35 percent Pākehā and 33 percent overall, lagging behind all other ethnic groups tracked by the Ministry of Health. 

Davis told Newshub Nation on Saturday that despite "almost $25 million" being invested in Māori-centric vaccination efforts, "people are staying home" instead, which is not the Government's fault. 

"There's no excuse for being ignorant. It's a simple message, go and get vaccinated. It's okay to blame the Government but we have to take responsibility for ourselves as well. The right thing to do is to go and get vaccinated," Davis said. 

"How many more millions of public funding do we need to keep giving to Māori service providers so more Māori go and get their vaccines? We're saying here's the money, go and inform the Māori communities of the benefits of the vaccine. But at the end of the day, people are staying home."

But Green MP Dr Elizabeth Kerekere, a member of the Green Party's Te Mātāwaka (Māori and Pasifika) caucus, begs to differ. 

"It is very disappointing to have such comments coming from a Māori Minister of the Crown who understands some of the challenges we face as Māori. It belittles the mana and mauri of our people," she said on Monday.

"The Government were given advice from Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā that the age-based roll-out of vaccinations would discriminate against Māori. The vaccination numbers reflect this and Māori providers are expected to make it work.

"Deflecting the issue of Māori not being vaccinated and pointing the finger back at our people will only dampen communication to get the vaccination."

Joshua Levy, who leads the COVID-19 vaccination team at Bargain Chemist in Manukau, says demand for people to get vaccinated is "really low at the moment". 

"We have the supply, just not the demand."

It comes after the Government secured an extra million doses of the Pfizer vaccine from Spain and Denmark, to help keep up with demand, before the bulk of doses arrive next month. 

"Māori providers are serving our people as much as they can, when it comes to a National Health plan to stop a pandemic. It is the Ministry of Health and DHBs who are responsible for getting the messaging out to all communities," said Dr Kerekere. 

"I would like to see a breakdown of how the extra funding is being rolled out, and whether or not some of that funding is actually dedicated to targeted communication strategies."

The Greens also lashed out at ACT leader David Seymour last week after he encouraged his Twitter followers to use a Māori access code to get a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine without making a booking

"It is totally unacceptable and quite irresponsible for a Member of Parliament, and a party leader, to lean on a racist narrative during a global pandemic," Dr Kerekere said at the time. 

"Māori vaccination providers are doing amazing mahi to protect our whānau and the wider community, especially now that vaccinations are available to rangatahi and all age groups.

"It looks like Mr Seymour has deliberately gone out of his way sabotage the Government's elimination strategy to protect us from COVID-19. This kind of behaviour puts all of Aotearoa at risk."

Seymour said Maori shouldn't be prioritised over others. 

"ACT wants all New Zealanders to have the opportunity to be vaccinated as quickly as possible. Whether you're Māori, pakeha, Pasifika or Asian."

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last week acknowledged the importance of having Māori share their stories about getting vaccinated, as well as those who have experienced COVID-19. 

"The more willingness that we have from everyone to talk about their experience with COVID - you know, it's one thing for us to stand up here and talk about it, but I've not had COVID-19. I've not had the experience of getting that phone call to tell you that 'You have COVID', and I'm sure the fear that that creates in people," she told a press conference.

"I haven't had to stand alongside a hospital bed or see someone in my family with COVID-19. Those are the stories that we all need to hear, because that's the reason we need everyone to be vaccinated."