As much maligned as they are, I rather imagine that many people reading this won't give a hoot if gang members live or die.
But I hope gang members themselves feel very differently about their future health, and right now we all should.
As we pursue a policy of maximum vaccination, those hard to reach – or hard to convince – pockets of New Zealand will become firmly fixed in the Ministry of Health's sights; given Covid is now in the gangs, it's become so apparent that our fates are entwined. After all, their co-operation will make an enormous difference to whether it's our hospitality hotspots or our hospitals that bulge in the short and medium terms.
A couple of weeks back, after a couple of glasses of scotch, I rang a few gang members just to say g'day and, like all conversation at this time, the whole Covid thing came up. Three long-term members who I spoke to – among the royalty of the scene – were all double-vaxxed.
Where to get a vaccination in Auckland - without a booking
But many spoke of the difficulties that exist within their communities around vaccine hesitancy and conspiracy theories.
One story I heard was of one particular leader simply demanding his men get the jab. But gang presidents don't have all of the influence in the world over the members. If they overstep the mark, they are at risk of losing support, fracturing their gang and potentially being deposed. It's not an easy game being the boss.
It's no surprise that many in the gangs are hesitant about the vaccine, given who it's coming from. These are people whose direct contact with the Government throughout their lives has been at the end of a truncheon. To them, the Government isn't something that looks out for them, it's something that's been raiding their house since they were a kid, or that took them away and put them in state care.
But not everyone is dead set anti-vax, some are just wavering – for a heap of different reasons. And this is where prominent gang leaders can – and ought – to play a part.
Many leaders may not want to do the cops any favours, but they are part of the community. In fact, gangs are community leaders in many neighbourhoods. Most readers of the Herald won't be members of those communities, but they exist in our cities and towns; socioeconomically deprived in academic language – plain poor in common talk.
Gang leaders, then, either wanting to do best by their people or concerned about their own economies – the black economy, after all, is just as impacted by lockdowns as the main economy – need to act to influence their members and their whānau.
If nothing else, gang leaders will have in their chapters – or are themselves – older men, many with all manner of health problems associated with hard living and poverty. Covid is a direct threat to those people.
To gang leaders, I say this: the data is now entirely clear, those who are unvaccinated are vastly more likely to catch Covid and get sick. Most people don't die from it, that much is true, but many more are left with the lasting effects of "long Covid", a condition that leaves you weak, tired, and vulnerable. Those who've had the vaccine are almost entirely immune to these effects.
We can also see that the claimed dangers of the vaccine itself are nonsense. Half the planet is now vaccinated, and the conspiratorial side effects that many were afraid of just aren't happening.
And for those who say they are concerned about what is in the vaccine, ask them about the meth they are inhaling. How well do they know the ingredients of that? Have they demanded evidence before they use it? I appreciate not all of those who are anti-vax will be on the glass pipe, but I suspect a lot of them very much are. Too many nights up, too much time on the internet, and too much paranoia.
To those gang leaders who know this stuff, I hope you too take a hard line with your men and do your best to convince other leaders as well.
To those who remain sceptical: allow yourself the power of changing your mind. If it was a great conspiracy to get you, it's doubtful the Prime Minister, the Commissioner of the Police, and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, would all have been jabbed before you. You've seen how disorganised the state can be arranging benefits, releasing people from prison, or just completing road works. Do you really think the state is so well placed to create such a massive conspiracy theory?
At Christmas during World War I, both sides of the trench got together to play a game of football and to have a drink. This is our World War I Christmas truce. We are all in the trenches. When this is over, we can all go back to our sides, but for now, you are part of our team of five million and we all need you to step up.
• Dr Jarrod Gilbert is the Director of Criminal Justice at the University of Canterbury and the author of Patched: the History of Gangs in New Zealand.