Māori health providers are starting Covid-19 vaccination clinics specifically for Māori to boost vaccination rates in Taranaki.
Māori in the region have had first vaccine shots at 61 per cent of the non-Māori rate, and second shots at 56 per cent of the non-Māori rate.
Those aged over 50 are doing best, roughly equalling non-Māori, but 30-49-year-old Māori are at just two-thirds the non-Māori rate, and 12-29-year-olds at just half the non-Māori rate.
Māori Party co-leader and Ngāti Ruanui leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said that had prompted Māori-only sessions.
She said Ngāti Ruanui health was now vaccinating only Māori for two to three days a week.
"So we're 100 per cent vaccinating Māori and Ngāti Ruanui uri [descendants] only – that was our aggressive response to try and narrow the gap."
Ngarewa-Packer said until now the iwi had done its job helping to look after the wider community but now needed to "look after ourselves".
"That's what I think Māori providers need to do now, so I think it's important Tui Ora turns it around and does 100 per cent Māori and we spend a few days a week doing that."
Tui Ora, which serves mainly the northern half of the region, is taking a different approach to Māori-only clinics.
Chief executive Hayden Wano said Tui Ora would continue its existing four days-a-week vaccination clinics for all, but would expand the work to offer new sessions for Māori and Pasifika patients.
"We've decided that we're going to put in very targeted programmes that focus on Māori and Pasifika on specific times … It's part of the ramping up, we want to make sure we get into Māori communities and make sure that rate of vaccination goes up."
Wano said more vaccinators and administrative staff from Taranaki District Health Board would boost Tui Ora's capacity, enabling the extra Māori-only clinics.
He said final plans would be ready by the end of the week.
"We would have very specific days when we focus specifically on the Māori population and whatever we might need to do that – including taking pop-up clinics to locations that might improve access."
Wano said iwi were closely involved in the planning and clinics on marae were a possibility.
He said iwi would also help focus the promotion of vaccination to Māori communities.
"We're tightening up the messaging: Rather than a general circulation of information, we're wanting to make sure information gets as close as possible to who we're trying to reach, through various networks including iwi networks."
Debbie Ngarewa-Packer said the higher rates of vaccination for older Māori were not reassuring.
"Seventy-one per cent of the Māori population are under 40, about a quarter are under 20 … It worries me we have a young population who haven't been targeted until lately."
She said misinformation via social media was promoting an anti-indigenous agenda.
"After years of colonisation and intergenerational trauma we are easily caught up in conspiracy theories and stories."
She urged whānau to consider the worst-case scenario when deciding whether to vaccinate.
"If our moko went into hospital I couldn't be with them and nurse them, or my kids. I wouldn't be able to be with my husband if he went into MIQ – it would just split [the whānau] up.
"Decide not on what everyone on social media is saying but on what your tolerance and ability to look after your own whānau is."