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Young Māori are being warned that Delta is knocking on their front doors as daily case numbers hit a new high, increasing the chances of the virus leaking out of Auckland.
The Government is trying to improve relationships between some DHBs and Māori health providers, and on Friday it will reveal extra efforts to vaccinate young Māori alongside its vaccination targets for the new traffic light framework.
The Friday announcement will also outline when Aucklanders might be able to leave the city.
“Aucklanders will need to be able to move around,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said when asked if Aucklanders could make Christmas plans.
Daily case numbers hit 94 yesterday, the highest since the start of the pandemic, and with an R value of between 1.2 and 1.3, they are expected to continue to grow.
Yesterday the first case appeared on Waiheke Island, and Ardern warned that there was a high rate of cases proportional to testing numbers in the North Shore.
The communities most at risk are those that are unvaccinated, and young Māori and Pasifika are the most unvaccinated groups in the country.
“To the Māori people, Covid-19 is on the doorstep of your houses,” Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare warned.
And given the increasing likelihood of Delta leaking out of the City of Sails, Ardern said it wasn’t just about the unvaccinated in Auckland.
“There are young people in other parts of Aotearoa that we really need to focus in on who don’t think it is real, or that it affects them yet,” she said.
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Māori make up an increasingly larger proportion of active cases, including 45.7 per cent in the past fortnight, and most of the new cases are under the age of 40.
National leader Judith Collins told The AM Show today that she would end lockdown byDecember 1 or earlier if they could get to the 85 to 90 per cent double vaccination rate.
Collins said the lockdown had already come as a huge cost to New Zealand and she had been really shocked to learn 85,000 medical procedures and operations had been cancelled in the first six weeks of lockdown.
This included people getting assessments or treatments for cancer or heart disease.
She said the Government needed to get on and get the ICU beds up and running – no excuse.
“We cannot simply have people paying an enormous cost because the Government stuffed up the vaccination rollout. Just get on with it, get on with it.”
Immunologist Dianne Sika-Paotonu said the Government’s targets on Friday needed to be 90 to 95 per cent for Māori and Pacific peoples, given “pre-existing health disparities and inequities”.
But that level of coverage is potentially months away.
Vaccination rates for Māori (45 per cent for two doses, 66.5 per cent for one) are well below the national average (66.6 per cent and 85 per cent).
Those rates drop even further for Māori aged 12 to 34 (29.7 per cent for two doses, 55.5 per cent for one dose), though in Auckland they are higher (36.8 per cent for two doses, 63.8 per cent for one dose).
The national rates for that age group are 50.6 per cent for two doses, and 78.3 per cent for one dose.
Coverage for young Māori is lowest in the Whakatāne, Kawerau, Ruapehu and Ōpōtiki districts, and highest in Wellington City, Selwyn District, Dunedin and Queenstown Lakes District.
The Government announced $36 million in September to support Māori health providers, but Henare said poor relationships between some DHBs and providers had “proven problematic”.
“In Taranaki, for example, we heard from Māori health providers and iwi that they were dissatisfied with the job that the DHB was doing. We met with the DHB and can now confirm that 16 hapū and the DHB are working together.”
Other areas with lagging coverage among Māori that Henare visited recently, or wanted to visit, including the West Coast, Christchurch, the Lakes District, Tairāwhiti, Tauranga, Palmerston North, and Te Tai Tokerau.
Vaccination efforts had also been dragged down by a lack of strong leadership, he said, and local GPs who were more worried about their own patients than the wider community.
He wouldn’t say if Māori had been let down by DHBs, and Ardern said many of them had delivered vaccines to Māori very well.
“In some areas, we do need to be doing better, absolutely. But those are conversations that didn’t just start in October,” Ardern said.
Henare said he didn’t think it was a mistake not to prioritise young Māori, given that the median age for Māori is 26 and for all ethnic groups it is 37.
Ardern added that the younger age profile for Māori was meant to be bridged in part by the ability of whānau to be vaccinated at the same time.
The Government had limited supply of the vaccine until July, she said, which had led to the decision to prioritise border and healthcare workers, as well as the 65s and over and those with underlying health conditions.
Cabinet rejected expert health advice to prioritise Māori and Pasifika aged 50 to 64.
The National Party is planning to release its own vaccination target today for Aucklanders and others to be able to move around the country.
Party leader Judith Collins said it won’t include a Māori target.
The Government also announced a third dose for the immunocompromised, with more details to be released next week.
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