Lorraine Eade, centre, with staff at Blenheim’s health hub who have helped with the vaccine roll-out, says 2022 will start with education evenings for parents as tamariki become eligible for vaccination against Covid.
The rest of Marlborough might be in full “silly season” mode, but iwi and health teams are already planning the region’s vaccine roll-out for 2022, with 5 to 11-year-olds “our next cohort”.
On Tuesday, Covid-19 response Minister Chris Hipkins announced tamariki aged 5 to 11 years would be eligible to receive their first vaccination from January 17 after Medsafe approved Pfizer’s paediatric vaccinations last week.
The time between second doses and booster vaccinations was also shortened from six months to four.
It came on the same day the Waitangi Tribunal ruled the Government breached Te Tiriti o Waitangi for “political convenience” in its response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
* Marlborough Māori reach 90 per cent first dose of Covid-19 vaccine
* Covid-19 modelling showed risk to Māori but Government failed to act, Waitangi Tribunal hears
* Government’s Covid-19 response is a breach of Te Tiriti o Waitangi, Māori health experts say
Te Kotahi o Te Tauihu kaiwhakahaere (operations manager) Lorraine Eade said iwi and Māori in the top of the south had been asked to help with the vaccine roll-out from the very beginning.
But that didn’t mean there weren’t inequities, which was why the work was not slowing down, Eade said.
Ōtaki Medical Centre CE Kiwa Raureti comments on ways to assist Māori with accessing the vaccine as DHB led vaccinations are not working as well for some isolated communities.
She said there had already been discussions with Nelson Marlborough Health, following the Waitangi Tribunal report.
The report found Cabinet breached Te Tiriti principles when it rejected advice from officials, such as Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield and the Ministry of Health, to adopt an age adjustment for Māori in the vaccine roll-out due to the population’s greater risk of infection and health inequities.
It also found the “rapid” transition into the protection framework happened faster than the Crown’s officials and experts recommended, and without the original vaccination thresholds being met – which did not adequately account for Māori health needs.
The Tribunal recommended the Crown urgently provide further funding, resourcing, data, and other support to assist Māori providers and communities with localised responses.
Eade said while she could only speak for Te Tauihu (top of the south), work was already underway to look at how they could reach more whānau in the region, and also tamariki.
“While we have 91 per cent Māori vaccinated [with the first dose] over this [Marlborough] side of the hill, we still have a little bit to go,” she said.
“It’s the silly season at the moment, it’s Christmas, New Year, but we’re still in the process of planning our roll-out for 2022, and those 5 to 11 [years] is our next cohort.
“We’re looking at education evenings with parents for those who just want to be assured around the efficacy of the vaccine, and what that looks like.”
She said they were also getting ready for any accommodation needed, should there be an outbreak of Covid-19 in the community.
“Because if we do have Covid home isolation, then what does it look like for young people who are housebound for that period of time.”
Waikawa Marae chair Rita Powick said they had already been rolling out boosters to whānau at the marae.
“Evidence shows that the Māori community have been severely impacted by previous pandemics,” Powick said.
“I’m certainly supportive and support whānau who wish to uptake … and actively encourage that around our community, bearing [in mind] of course that people have their own personal views, and it is a personal choice.”
She said choosing to be a base for vaccination, was about making sure whānau were supported.
“I saw some of the things in the Waitangi Tribunal [report]. It’s not about having it done to you, it’s about having it done with you, and I totally endorse those thoughts,” she said.
“It pains me to think we are always trying to encourage those things the Treaty talks about.
“I totally understand that those who provide the vaccinations are those who have the information, and knowledge and skills to know what to do. But at the same time, to reach our Māori community, the norm doesn’t fit, because it’s not the norm for whānau.”
Marlborough Primary Health organisation chief executive Beth Tester said the shift in the booster timeframe meant more people were now ready for their third jab.
“So we will gear up more staff at the vaccination centre to deal with that,” she said.
Tester said the community based assessment centre (CBAC) could be stood up immediately should it need to, even if that was Christmas Day or Boxing Day.
Anyone who needed a Covid test on Christmas Day could get one at the Urgent Care Centre, Tester said.