By Nanaia Mahuta
I recently attended a mass community vaccination event at Hopuhopu in Ngaruawahia “Aio Nuku, Aio Rangi”.
Targeted at the wider Waikato region, it was great to see the so many whānau taking up the call to get vaccinated while remaining in the relative comfort of their own car.
But the stark reality is that there is more mahi to be done.
Just a few weeks before, Kaiaua and Whakatīwai communities were placed under the restrictions of a Section 70 notice after the emergence of positive delta variant cases.
Local Māori health provider Te Korowai Hauora o Hauraki quickly mobilised for the moment they had both dreaded but planned for.
Testing rates were high followed by a drive for the one thing that we all need to put at the top of our ‘to do’ list: getting vaccinated.
At the frontlines of our Māori communities are our essential workers – iwi-based health and social service providers leading the charge to assure and rally our communities.
This was certainly the case for the first lockdown in 2020 and has continued to be the norm for communities this time around.
But here’s the thing we have learned – the Delta variant is highly transmissible, and it’s as tricky as a stoat in a field of grass to try and track down.
As parts of our region have once again moved to Alert Level 3, the message is clear that that getting vaccinated is the best way to protect ourselves, our whānau and wider community here in Waikato.
Vaccinations in our region have seen rates track well for the 65+ demographic, yet all eligible Māori across the region sit at approximately 52% for the first dose with the total number of Māori fully vaccinated significantly lower at 27%.
While we can take comfort in increasing figures, we can’t afford to be complacent.
The Government has maintained an elimination strategy and now that we are progressing through our vaccination effort, the Prime Minister has challenged our team of five million to get 90% of the eligible population vaccinated.
This will equate to approximately 75% of the total population and a higher assurance that the ravaging impacts of coronavirus will not take hold and overwhelm our health services.
We know this approach resonates strongly with local iwi leaders who are endorsing the Pfizer rollout through their networks for the purpose of whānau getting vaccinated to protect their whakapapa, tamariki and mokopuna.
When it comes to reliable information, challenge still lies ahead. Social media platforms have opened the floodgates of myth and misinformation – fuelling anti-vaccination rhetoric.
We know this can only be combatted if whānau confront fear and hesitancy in our region and direct their community to health experts.
With the sobering reminder of the 1918 influenza epidemic as a crucial point in history for our Māori communities, the way forward for Waikato needs to be ensuring that anyone who can get vaccinated does so, because every extra person vaccinated is another layer of protection for us all against Covid-19.
Protect your whānau today and don’t hesitate to vaccinate – our tamariki deserve the best future.