NZ aims to up Maori vaccination rate

·2-min read

New Zealand's Maori Health Minister has begun a national roadshow to convince Kiwis to be vaccinated for COVID-19.

Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare will visit maraes, or meeting houses, and huis, or gatherings, across Aotearoa in coming weeks in the hope of persuading Maori to join the mass vaccination program.

"I look forward to spreading the message around the vaccine and its efficacy and supporting it amongst our communities," he said in Wellington on Wednesday.

NZ's vaccine strategy is sharply angled towards vulnerable groups.

That begins with those most at risk of getting the virus, including border workers and the country's health workforce, and those most likely to suffer worse health outcomes if they catch COVID-19.

Research has shown Maori and Pasifika more likely to be hospitalised or killed by COVID-19 than the pakeha, or non-Maori, population.

To date, 90,286 doses of the Pfizer vaccine have been administered.

However, data shows the proportion of Maori to have been vaccinated is lower than that of the general population.

To try and rectify the shortfall, Jacinda Ardern's government has put tens of millions of dollars behind Maori-specific vaccination initiatives.

Mr Henare said the challenges to vaccinating Maori were plentiful, including the need for more vaccinators and health workers, and reaching more remote regions.

"We know the health workforce broadly speaking has been under the pump," he said.

"Our job right now is to give (Maori providers) the capacity and support ... we're on target as far as I'm concerned."

The opposition has taken aim at the government's lacklustre vaccination rate.

In question time on Wednesday, National's COVID-19 spokesman Chris Bishop produced a leaked document showing the government had fulfilled just a quarter of its proposed target.

Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield said earlier the government had achieved "96 per cent of forecasted numbers", denying a go-slow.

"From this coming week we're expecting 35,000 doses a week to be delivered, and it will continue to ramp up from there," he said.

"We've got a Pfizer-based program, which provides some advantages. It is a highly effective and safe vaccine but it is the trickiest one logistically.

"We're standing up the vaccination program on top of continuing to run our healthcare system ... and to manage our border.

"That is a significant deployment of our workforce."