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New funds help boost vaccinations

Eseta Mamesa [left], Jake Carlson and Tina Brady. PHOTO/SUE TEODORO

With the pressure on to reach the Government’s 90 per cent target, about 5700 people across the region still remain entirely unvaccinated.

New figures showed Maori vaccination numbers improving, with the majority of unvaccinated people in other groups, mainly European.

Figures made public by Wairarapa DHB on Friday showed Maori vaccination figures were tracking upwards, with 72 per cent of those eligible now at one dose and 52 per cent fully vaccinated.

To reach 90 per cent across the region, 1148 Maori needed their first dose and 2387 the second. For the total population to reach 90 per cent, 1548 needed the first jab and 6613 the second.

The Government has put significant funding behind boosting Maori vaccination rates.

Marina Tunuiarangi, vaccination programme operations manager for Wairarapa DHB, said the steady upward trajectory resulted from taking time to work with and speak to people.

“It is great to see our numbers going up when it comes to our Maori vaccination statistics. It means we are doing it right,” she said.

“Consistently around the country, we have seen our Maori whanau are slower to vaccinate. It was important for us to take the time to understand why some of us were hesitating and respond properly.

“We want to awhi [take care of] our people through this process. It is about having proper korero [discussion] and taking the time people need to answer their questions.

“Often it is not about what we can tell people; it is about hearing what is top of mind for them, and then working with that.”

“With understanding comes acceptance. Our Hauora [well-being] approach allows Maori to come and korero and, once they feel comfortable, they can get vaccinated,” she said.

She said the vaccination programme could appear rushed and tightly controlled, which was off-putting to some. Taking time to explain the reasons for speed was important.

Mobile vaccine and Hauora clinics have been operating across the region.

Tekau Ma Iwa kaitataki [team leader], Jake Carlson, teamed up with Eseta Mamesa and Tina Brady of Tu Ora Compass Health at a pop-up Hauora and vaccination centre at the Wairarapa-Bush rugby game at Memorial Park in Masterton on Saturday.

The informal clinic blended music and a barbecue, with talk about rugby, health and vaccinations. Carlson said the event had gone well.

“Today’s just about being out there and being available. We’re trying to make sure that access isn’t an issue for some of these conversations to take place. One strategy is going to the people, and we know there’s a big sports community here in Wairarapa,” he said.

“It’s been really cool.

“People are becoming increasingly comfortable. We are seeing whanau groups come in; we are having a lot more conversations than we had been having in recent months. That’s incredibly rewarding and really energising because it means we are connecting with people authentically.”

The Government has approved an initial $23 million to help boost Maori vaccination rates. Wairarapa was not specifically targeted in the funding, but health providers might be eligible to access a general pool of funds available across the North Island to Whanau Ora commissioning agencies.

Last week’s’ funding announcement was part of a first phase focused on vaccination rates. Further funds would become available to help protect communities against covid.

“We know local solutions are how we are going to reach the rest of Maori with our vaccination message,” Maori Crown Relations Minister Kelvin Davis said last week when the new funding was announced.

“There is an army of volunteers, iwi and Maori organisations already working hard on this mahi [work] and with the funding provided, their efforts will be supercharged.”

Minister for Maori Development Willie Jackson expected the proposals would help accelerate Maori vaccination rates.

“The task now is to put our foot on the pedal and reach Maori, particularly in high priority and low vaccination areas,” he said.

Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare said community mobilisation had made a difference.

“Maori passed 70 per cent having their first jab last Friday. I want to mihi [thank] all the hard-working Maori providers, iwi and community groups who, with DHBs, supported whānau to reach that milestone.”

Areas receiving specific funding are Te Tai Tokerau, Tamaki Makaurau, Waikato-Waiariki, Taranaki, Heretaunga, Whanganui and others.

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