Government rejected key way to boost vaccination among Māori and Pasifika

Revelations the Government rejected advice to fund Whānau Ora to have a strategic role in the vaccination rollout demonstrates the Government is failing to utilise all levers to increase vaccination among Māori and Pasifika, says National’s Whānau Ora spokesperson Harete Hipango and Social Investment spokesperson Louise Upston.

In March this year, the Government was advised that ‘Whānau Ora Commissioning Agencies are well positioned to support the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccinations.’

However, the Government refused to directly fund commissioning agencies to have a strategic role in the vaccination programme. 

“Te Puni Kokiri advised the Government that commissioning agencies’ involvement could improve outreach to Māori and Pasifika communities, facilitate access to the vaccine and were well placed to provide wrap around support before, during and after vaccination”, says Upston.

“Ministers have talked a big game about backing Whānau Ora,” says Hipango.

“However, this demonstrates the Government has failed to back them in taking a leadership role to support uptake of the vaccine despite officials advocating for their involvement.

“Right back when Covid first hit New Zealand, it was well known Māori and Pasifika were acutely vulnerable. Given the relationships Whānau Ora has developed with Māori and Pasifika communities, it is baffling the Government did not have them at the top table on vaccine strategy.”

Upston says many of the issues reported by Pasifika communities following the Delta outbreak, such as language barriers, were identified by officials back in March this year.

“The reason many providers are feeling like the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff is because the Government thought it knew best and ignored the expertise of the commissioning agencies and community organisations.

“Given one of the three Whānau Commissioning agencies is Pasifika Futures, one wonders why only the Labour Māori caucus, and not the Pasifika caucus, were to be consulted on this decision, according to officials.

“Whether it’s the failure to utilise the reach of a large Government department like the Ministry of Social Development or Whānau Ora Commissioning agencies, the Government has missed golden opportunities to increase vaccine uptake among the most at-risk New Zealanders.”

You can read the Aide Memoire HERE, and see replies to Written Parliamentary Questions HERE.