Coronavirus: Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, Marama Davidson urge Māori to trust them when they say vaccination is the right thing to do

Māori political leaders say they understand why so few tangata whenua are getting vaccinated, but it has to change. 

Just 40 percent of eligible (aged 12-plus) Māori have had two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 63 percent at least one. They lag every other ethnicity tracked by the Ministry of Health, such as Pasifika (54 percent double-dosed), European/other (62 percent) and Asian (74 percent). 

Various explanations have been given for the discrepancy, such as a vaccine rollout that didn't take their specific needs into account and existing inequities in the health system.

But it's distrust of authority that Green Party co-leader Marama Davidson and Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer singled out on The AM Show on Friday.  

"We're gravely behind as Māori," said Ngarewa-Packer.

"We understand the apprehension and the lack of trust. But we do ask that you trust in us. Those that know us and those that know the front lines we have been on, we would never go on a front line that we didn't say we needed to be in it to actually look after our whanau and protect ourselves… 

"Especially now that the elimination phase is ending, we need to really dig in, whanau. Look at our history, look at what we're contending with now. Trust in those that are always with you, shoulder-to-shoulder, in every journey that we have as Māori in our inequities… I get it, but we really are in this now and we need to dig deep." 

A group of Māori health organisations say if restrictions are loosened before their vaccination rates are up with the rest of the country, many will die.  

"We're left with the impression that Māori are an accepted collateral damage from this Government," Ngāti Whatua  health provider Te Hā Oranga general manager Boyd Broughton told RNZ

Māori are 50 percent more likely to die from COVID-19 than non-Māori, research published in the New Zealand Medical Journal in September found, due to substandard housing and pre-existing conditions, despite having a younger population than some other groups, such as Pākehā. More than half the new cases reported on Thursday were Māori. 

"I absolutely acknowledge the generations of people feeling that they haven't always been part of the team of 5 million," Davidson said, appearing with Ngarewa-Packer and other political leaders on The AM Show. 

"We can look to our Māori experts, our kaupapa Māori health experts and doctors, who have stood up against the inequalities… I'm asking people to trust our kaupapa Māori experts… our tupuna had the wisdoms and the insights to understand how important it was to protect each other collectively. Our Māori health experts, who have fought for us forever, are very, very clear - do this to protect our whakapapa."