By Tumamao Harawira of Maori Television
"Māori are coming around to the vaccine", says Associate Minister for Māori Health Peeni Henare.
"I can tell you that for Thursday, Friday, Māori vaccination rates were over 10,000 each of those days, and more than 9,600 Māori got their first dose on Saturday."
It is a remarkable turnaround for Māori.
According to Ministry of Health data, approximately 81 per cent of the population of the country have received their first dose. That number, however, masks the appalling rate at which Māori are being vaccinated.
336,832 Māori have received their first Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, around 590 per 1,000 people, and with 850,500 Māori estimated to reside in Aotearoa, that is not even half of the population. But the signs of Māori getting on the "Shot Bro" bus are encouraging.
Henare says, "Māori are coming around to the vaccine. What we have found is that we are now in the one-on-one conversation space. That is what it is going to take".
But Māori health providers are saying they can do more. Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency CEO John Tamihere filed an application for an injunction in the Wellington High Court on Friday morning, claiming Māori providers need more information about Māori vaccination uptake data to formulate a cohesive plan to increase vaccination rates among Māori.
Tamihere says in order to keep the momentum going, Māori need a more detailed picture of what vaccination rates look like, "Some 80 per cent of Māori are on an NHI system somewhere, which allows us to know who is vaccinated totally and those who are not vaccinated."
"Asian populations are now 94 per cent first jab. The Pākehā population will be in the high 80s by the end of this weekend. Māori are still languishing in the late 50s, first jab."
Henare says the ministry has tried its best to equip Māori health providers with effective tools to fight the virus.
"He wants granular data that shows where every Māori is in the country and whether or not they have been vaccinated. A lot of that data is already held by primary health organisations and they are willing to work with Māori providers. Ultimately, it is a privacy issue. If individuals agree to the commissioning agency having their details, then we can give it."
With the numbers tracking in the right direction but much more needed to be done to get Māori vaccination rates on par with other ethnicities, Henare has only one thing to say to vax hesitant Māori, "If you have questions then ask the right people. Do it for the whānau, bro."