National Party health spokesperson Shane Reti has singled out Hawke's Bay DHB as one of three healthboards to experience an "astounding drop" in flu vaccinations for over-65s.
But the DHB says the rates are a reflection of the Covid-19 vaccination rollouts taking precedence.
Reti said when he questioned Health Minister Andrew Little about flu vaccination for over-65s this year he said the flu vaccination coverage was 63 per cent nationally.
"That's even worse than last year, and well below the target vaccination rate of 75 per cent," Reti said.
"Even more worrying is the flu vaccination rate among Māori – it's down by 10 per cent compared to last year.
"Some district health boards have experienced an astounding drop in flu vaccination rates. Hawke's Bay is down by 25 per cent, Whanganui by 21 per cent and Lakes down by 19 per cent. These are DHBs with large Māori populations."
In Hawke's Bay the percentage of the population aged 65 and over recorded as being vaccinated for influenza in 2020 and 2021, as at August 28, 2020, and August 27, 2021, respectively is- Māori 2020- 75.8, Māori 2021- 50.7, non-Māori 2020-72.6, non-Māori 2021-67.5, total 2020- 72.9, total 2021-65.6.
Reti said urgent work was required to address the "significant drop" in flu vaccine uptake among Māori, especially in Hawke's Bay.
"A combination of late deployment of the Covid vaccine and the need to have two weeks between that and the flu vaccine may account for the poor take-up," he said.
"However, there were several months between the start of the flu vaccination in April and the eligibility for those in Group 3 (over-65s, those at-risk due to other conditions) to get the Covid vaccination.
"It's yet another health target that the Government has failed on. With around 400 people dying each year from flu, this failure will certainly cost lives."
Hawke's Bay DHB's clinical director of population health Nick Jones said influenza data was collected by the Ministry of Health per DHB region by providers of the programme.
"The influenza vaccine is largely delivered in primary care, such as through GP clinics and pharmacies," Jones said.
"The district health board supports outreach clinics to reduce access barriers. Figures to date are a reflection of the Covid-19 vaccination rollout."
Jones said the Ministry of Health revised the timeframe for this year's rollout of the influenza immunisation programme, with priority for those aged 65 and over from April 14, followed by other groups from May.
"As acknowledged by the Ministry at the time, the Covid vaccination campaign has taken priority as well as maintaining childhood immunisation levels," he said.
"However, there has also been a steady uptake even during this time in primary care (GP and pharmacy-based immunisation), with outreach clinics also supported by the DHB to reach Māori and Pasifika populations.
"There have been no confirmed cases of influenza to date in lab testing in Hawke's Bay."
Flu immunisation is currently free for the following eligible Hawke's Bay residents from their doctor, nurse or qualified vaccinating pharmacist: pregnant women (any time during pregnancy), people aged 65 or older, people aged under 65 with diabetes, most heart or lung conditions and some other illnesses.
As well as children aged four or under who have had a stay in hospital for measles, asthma or other breathing problems.