Young people with underlying health conditions are "driving up" the vulnerability of Rotorua's population should a Covid-19 outbreak arise, says an investigator.
While the whole of New Zealand was vulnerable to Covid-19 outbreaks, some communities were more so than others.
Te Pūnaha Matatini investigator Dr Dion O'Neale said in Rotorua there was "a bunch of people who had health vulnerability where it wasn't also associated with age".
"Rotorua might not follow your typical New Zealand vulnerability pattern where age is such a driver."
The Ministry of Health had identified underlying health conditions as a risk factor when contracting Covid-19, he said.
"If you've got existing respiratory illnesses or cardiovascular illnesses … diabetes, renal conditions – they're all things that mean if you do get infected with Covid-19, the virus can do a lot more damage than it would otherwise."
O'Neale said this might "tie in" with different vaccination rates for Māori in particular.
"That's where you're going to get people who [are] younger who have more health vulnerability and because of the way the vaccination rollout has been progressed, are relatively under-vaccinated.
"Vaccination is a great way to reduce [the] vulnerability of people who are vulnerable for other factors."
Te Tatau o Te Arawa chairman Te Taru White said vulnerability to Covid-19 was "absolutely" a worry for Māori communities.
"It stands true that the data for Māori and Pasifika people around vaccination rates is significantly behind [the] mainstream."
White said he implored the Government to introduce buses as mobile vaccination clinics and it was "a good next move [to] take the vaccination vans out there to them".
"I think we've got to be thinking more innovatively in this space because it's very difficult to change the mindsets of people in terms of making it a priority because they're just battling to survive.
"Some of our people are facing just getting food on the table," he said.
"They care about wanting to protect their families, but with those sorts of struggles it is challenging for them."
Te Arawa Covid Response Hub kaumatua Monty Morrison said getting vaccinated was "the only way we're going to be able to protect our whakapapa".
"All the health statistics show that we are vulnerable," he said.
"It's concerning but at the same time it's really a wake-up call for everybody to make sure ... they do get vaccinated."
Morrison said the Te Arawa group was organising a drive-through vaccination area by Foodstuffs on the corner of Clayton Rd and Fairy Springs Rd starting on September 26. This would run every Sunday and Monday for six weeks.
The drive-through was open to all, but was particularly "targeting our Māori families", he said.
Lakes District Health Board chief operating officer Alan Wilson said the board had worked collaboratively with local iwi, Te Arawa, Māori health providers, and Rotorua and Taupō primary health organisations to ensure Māori needs were at the forefront of the drive to vaccinate the whole community.
"These partnerships have seen a number of successful marae-based vaccination clinics in Rotorua and Taupō led by Māori and supported by Lakes DHB as well as drive through vaccination clinics including some that are run by Māori and are focused on getting more Māori to be vaccinated.
"There are also vaccination clinic sessions in rural areas like Mangakino, Tūrangi, Reporoa and Kaingaroa Village as these communities have high numbers of Māori."
For the Pasifika community, the DHB had worked closely with local people and organisations to run sessions in Rotorua and Taupō, which were supported by local Pasifka organisations, he said.
"These have been very successful and there are plans for more."
Wilson said protecting whānau and the wider community was "a strong driver" for many people getting the vaccine.
A Lakes District Health Board spokesperson said the board's approach to ensuring Māori and Pasifika populations were fully vaccinated was to work collaboratively and in partnership with their communities.
"This includes taking a whānau-centred approach to vaccinations, making it as easy as possible for people from the same whānau to be vaccinated at the same time," the spokesperson said.
Wilson said there had been a "substantial" increase in people wanting to get vaccinated following the move to alert level 4.
"Now that we have moved to alert level 2, health staff across the sector are ready with a range of outreach clinics and our two hubs operating and are looking forward to helping people willing to be vaccinated.
"We really urge people to book in and get vaccinated as soon as possible."
Residents can find a vaccination clinic in their neighbourhood by visiting the Healthpoint website.