Prevailing unease among Lakes area Māori about Covid-19 jabs is reflected in the latest data with the area recording the third-lowest rate in the country for fully vaccinated Māori.
In the Lakes District Health Board area, 39 per cent of Māori were fully vaccinated against Covid-19 after Super Saturday last weekend. Some 59 per cent had received at least one dose.
The neighbouring Bay of Plenty District Health Board had the lowest full vaccination rate for Māori with 37 per cent, while 59 per cent had received at least one dose.
Kaumātua Monty Morrison says Māori vaccination rates must increase quickly because data shows they are "going to be the worst affected" by the virus, while Murupara kaumātua Pem Bird says he and other local Māori don't want the Pfizer vaccine and are waiting for others they think will be more effective.
It was revealed midweek that vaccine coverage for young Māori was lowest in the Whakatāne, Kawerau, Ruapehu and Ōpōtiki districts, and highest in Wellington City, Selwyn District, Dunedin and Queenstown Lakes District.
Nationally, 44 per cent of Māori had received their second dose.
Vaccine Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand-Ohu Kaupare Huaketo and Malaghan Institute director Professor Graham Le Gros said waiting to get the vaccine was not worth the risk.
"You've got to get it now before the virus gets you."
Le Gros said although there could be a need for booster shots in the future it was important to get the immunisation process started. He said the available vaccine was safe and worked well.
"The risk right now for anyone in the community of facing the virus without any vaccination is very high."
The Ministry of Health says evidence shows two doses of the Pfizer vaccine is "highly effective" against the Delta Covid-19 variant and the few vaccinated people who do get the Delta variant tend to have a milder illness with fewer symptoms.
Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare issued a warning to Māori this week, saying: "Covid-19 is on the doorstep of your houses".
When asked about the low vaccination rates for Māori in the Lakes District Health Board area, Henare said there would always be regions where uptake was lower than others.
"There are various reasons for this including the fact that there are some hard-to-reach pockets of Aotearoa," Henare told the Rotorua Daily Post.
"It's always difficult to see a region that has lower uptake rates than we would like."
Henare acknowledged there was a range of opinions on the vaccine, including those held by kaumātua Pem Bird.
Henare said his focus was to build on the work led by Māori providers.
"Local iwi providers are doing fantastic work leading the vaccination programme, supported by their DHB. This is what our whānau-centred approach is all about, with vaccinations being designed, led and delivered by Māori for Māori in the community."
Henare said the way communities turned out on Super Saturday gave him hope, citing the example of the Bay's Kawerau District as the territorial authority with the biggest daily percentage increase for first doses given on the day.
"We have a way to go to raise the vaccine uptake rate, but with our collective will, and by continuing our whānau-centred approach, we can do this."
Morrison, a Te Arawa Covid Response hub kaumātua, said vaccination rates for Māori "have to" increase over the next two months.
"We're not where we want to be. We definitely want to do better. The data is telling us we as Māori are going to be the worst affected [by Covid-19]."
Morrison said the Te Arawa Covid Response hub had more outreach programmes planned, especially targeting the 20-39 age group and secondary schools.
"Educating and talking to people about the jab is very important. We need to get our people on board."
Morrison said he respected Bird as a kaumatua of standing but did not agree with his position.
"[Bird's comments] just tells you the size of the difficulties we're having, the challenges that are ahead of us."
Morrison encouraged the older generations to speak to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren about getting vaccinated.
"Tell them, 'If you love me get vaccinated'."
Lakes District Health Board chief operating officer Alan Wilson said the numbers were not unexpected.
"We expect Māori vaccination rates to be lower as the Māori population is younger and the national programme was rolled out by age bands."
Wilson said the fact more first doses than second doses were administered on Super Saturday was positive.
According to the Ministry of Health's data, 59 per cent of Māori residing in the Lakes District Health Board had received the first dose of the vaccine.
"We know that most people go on to get their second dose. The ratio between first and second doses was very encouraging," Wilson said.
Wilson identified rurality and socioeconomic status affecting all people in the district as challenges that contributed to low vaccination uptake.
"The other challenge has been people with busy lives and just finding time to get vaccinated," Wilson said.
"The rates for kaumātua are very high in our district. Now we just need to get that rolled out across all our young Māori to keep them safe."
Wilson was confident the results for Māori would significantly improve over the next two months.