Iwi collective seeks new approach as it chips away at first vaccinations

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Iwi collective seeks new approach as it chips away at first vaccinations

An iwi collective says it will need to change tack in the second half of its 15-week rapid response rollout to lift Māori vaccination numbers.

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The Ranga Tupua iwi collective has been sending four mobile clinics into the least vaccinated areas of Whanganui, South Taranaki, Rangitīkei and the Waimarino since early December.

Operation co-lead Elijah Pue says the mobile teams are continuing to see steady numbers of second vaccinations and boosters but first vaccinations are key.

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“I would love to see more first-vax numbers – vaccination is our best protection,” Pue said.

“In terms of our target and who really needs our attention are those ones who haven’t yet been vaccinated. We might be vaccinating four or five firsts a day. If you think about that over a week or over a month, it turns into big numbers.

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“But we’ve got some really important conversations to have to understand how we might start to drive home and go really hard into those hard-to-reach areas to boost those numbers.”

Pue said Castlecliff, Gonville and some of the rural parts of Rangitīkei were areas of concern, but the least vaccinated places continued to be Raetihi and the rural areas of the Waimarino, including from the back of the Parapara to Karioi, Tangiwai and across toward National Park.

He says in Raetihi township about 120 individuals had yet to receive their first vaccination. That is 12 per cent of the township’s population of just over 1000.

“We are looking at that mesh-block data in terms of street by street, and where we might need to be placing our mobile units, and whether or not a door-to-door campaign might help in this case.

“The mobile unit has told us that doing that differently has been really key, but to get us over the line in the last six to eight weeks of this campaign we really need to start doing things a little bit differently.

“We’ll be going to mid-March with the rapid response rollout so we’ve still got a bit of time yet. A bit of patience and understanding [is required], and just knowing that our whānau for whatever reason are still hesitant – and some of them are indeed anti, and that’s just something we have to realise and understand.”

However, Pue said discussion would be needed around where to draw the line.

“Where might we say we’ve done our absolute best in Raetihi? If we’ve reached, say for argument’s sake, 80 per cent in Raetihi … is that enough? Are we just going to continue to go there and vaccinate people who aren’t from Raetihi? Do we continue to have a presence just in case we have the odd one or two persons that might present for a vaccination?

“The next part of the conversation is those targets – what is actually realistic? Some places in our rohe will never get to 90 per cent and that’s just a reality.

“I hate to say it but what is going to help us with our numbers is a positive case. God forbid, because we don’t want that at all. But I can tell you that both testing and vaccination numbers will go up when a positive case hits any of our areas and Omicron, indeed, will be critical for us to get our numbers up.”

In the Whanganui District Health Board area, which includes parts of the Rangitīkei and Waimarino districts, 86 per cent of the eligible Māori population has had one dose of the vaccine, with another 570 first vaccinations needed to reach the government’s 90 per cent target. About 1260 jabs are needed to boost Māori from 81 per cent to the 90 per cent double vaccination target.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health has released vaccination tables for children aged 5 to 11 years. In the Whanganui DHB area, 1050 (16 percent) of 6588 eligible children have received a first dose.

The numbers for tamariki Māori are close to half that of the general population, with 237 (9 per cent) of the 2707 eligible children vaccinated with a first dose, and for Pasifika children 28 (10 per cent) of 277 eligible children have had their first jab.

• Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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