The fact that Māori have the lowest vaccination rates in Aotearoa is nothing new to Māori or those who work in poor communities.
For two years the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency has pleaded with health officials to access key Māori data, which could be utilised to support a complete Māori vaccination roll-out strategy.
The Whānau Ora network already provides the e-prescription contract for the whole of Aotearoa through our IT company Whānau Tahi.
Secondly, we have deployed software in more than seven district health boards that connects emergency services to primary services so all health providers can look up specific patient's details by their name.
Thirdly, we have access to primary healthcare software that allows us to look up any NHI (National Health Index) number by name. In other words, total access.
We have met all the probity and protocol issues in regards to the use of this private information. Any allegation that the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency will breach privilege as a consequence of access to the information is nonsense given our access to NHI numbers anyway.
In addition, a number of third party agencies – non-Māori - have access to Māori data - e.g. Homecare Medical Limited.
We asked two years ago for this information. We asked again 12 months ago knowing that we would run into major problems because we wanted to invite our people to vaccinations, not go into a lottery called appointments.
You have to engineer and craft public population roll-out systems specific to each cohort of the population. This means Māori had to be targeted with a different approach because of their vulnerability and their inability to access a system designed not for them and, of course, not by them.
Our problem is that in a short amount of time we are going to have to lift Māori vaccination rates significantly.
It now becomes critical for Māori providers to deploy their resources so that Māori vaccination rates are increased in every suburb where Māori are lagging.
This means our mobile vaccination vehicles must know where to target populations, streets and suburbs up and down Aotearoa.
At the moment the district health boards (DHBs) and Ministry of Health (MoH) know they are sending us out on non-targeted fishing expeditions.
Their continued blocking of us to this data has been raised with ministers and those ministers have been lied to. We will provide the written documentation for that in due course.
At this moment in time, we have beefed up our workforce by redeploying back-office staff, including volunteers and others to be accredited as lay Covid vaccinators.
Whānau Waipareira has 25 lay vaccinators, and between them, they have vaccinated more than 30,000 fellow Kiwis.
Our Māori workforce capacity, which is already battle-hardened in delivering mobile services, numbers upwards of 1100 kaimahi across the whole of Tāmaki Makaurau, and we want to target this workforce in the most worthy way possible.
Our Māori deployment plan, known to the MoH and DHBs, is as follows:
• We identify significant areas of non-vaccinated Māori. At the same time, this will cover off a number of other non-Māori who suffer the same difficulties in any vaccination programme.
• We get our young volunteers from Year 12 & Year 13 to leaflet drop the area we are targeting 24 hours beforehand.
• We ask the schools in the particular area to update and constantly message their Facebook pages that we are in their hood, where we will be, and to invite their whānau to come down to be vaccinated if they are not.
• We also ask rugby league and netball clubs in these areas to Facebook their communities as to our arrival.
• We then deploy mobiles in sets of three vehicles. All vehicles are equipped with loudspeaker systems pumping our type of music into our hoods. Those vehicles will slowly traverse the suburb advising where we are and that our vaccination vehicles are coming to the people. These vehicles are populated with our social workers and another vehicle packed with food and hygiene packs to support welfare checks and the delivery of immediate care into those communities. The third vehicle is a six-berth campervan that is fit for purpose for our clinical staff to vaccinate and/or test from a hub.
The key to ensuring all the above energy works well is access to the contact information held by the Ministry of Health in terms of the National Health Index contact information. It is here where we deploy hundreds and thousands of text messages to the suburbs that we will blitz with our mobile units.
The MoH and the DHBs know that our vaccination attempt cannot be fully or successfully deployed unless we have access to invite our people to attend.
If our people are given a fair chance, we will lift our vaccination rates.
We are walking into a perfect storm, not of our making.
As the majority of non-Māori population vaccinations rise, so rightly does their support for any lockdowns. Our people are not vaccinated because the people who run the present system are not of us or by us. They designed a system for middle-class non-Māori New Zealanders, who have done very well.
By way of further evidence please look at the side chart showing that even without a pandemic, how badly run our health system is in regards to immunisations for Māori versus others.
In other words, they failed us before the pandemic. Now give Māori a shot.
- John Tamihere is a former Labour MP and CEO of the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency and West Auckland Māori authority Whānau Waipareira.