Maori vaccination effort goes door-to-door in Taranaki

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Rangatahi groups are going door-to-door in the towns and suburbs with large Maori populations in Taranaki in an attempt to increase declining vaccination rates.

Stéphanie kettle

Photo: Robin martin

About 77 percent of Maori in Taranaki have received a first dose, but only 61 percent are fully immunized.

This compares to 89 and 78 percent respectively for the general population.

RNZ joined Stephanie Kettle from a group of kaiārahi or connectors as they knocked on the door in Waitara.

She explained their approach.

“So we’ll just do a covid-19 recovery response. Just check out our local whanau in Waitara and see how they’re doing.

“Just their general well-being and the well-being of their home and check if they’ve been vaccinated, and if not find out some of their reasons and if we can help them.”

The 36-year-old said the response so far has been excellent.

“At first we were a little hesitant and unsure of how this was going to turn out, but I found it to be a very good, positive experience for us.

“The majority of our Waitara community received their shots and those who weren’t were always ready to have these conversations if they weren’t sure.”

Stephanie Kettle presents the work of the kaiārahi group to Carmen Russell and her daughter Elsie Teranga.

Stephanie Kettle presents the work of the kaiārahi group to Carmen Russell and her daughter Elsie Teranga.
Photo: Robin martin

Kettle said it makes a difference that the messages are delivered by people born and raised in Waitara.

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Carmel Russell, who was at home with her three-year-old daughter Elsie Teranga, was one of those who came to their door.

She was vaccinated, but enjoyed the call anyway.

“Yeah, I was a little surprised that they came, but it was also great having people looking after us, you know, someone was watching us.”

Russell felt that this type of approach could help reach the unvaccinated.

“I think people need pretty personal conversations and conversations to determine their status, I think.

“I think it will work and I think people in the community and maybe the less vaccinated groups need to talk to each other for this to happen.”

At 19, Awanuiarangi Wano was one of the youngest kaiārahi.

He said he could offer something different to the vaccine rollout.

“A different and different view was talking to them, I would say, so coming from a different angle when you try to approach them.

“A different voice instead of always listening to the same voice so I think having a younger person experienced it [vaccination] and went through it’s really important for them to see. “

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He felt it was easier for him to challenge another youngster about the misinformation they had picked up online.

Emere wano

Emere wano
Photo: Robin martin

Emere Wano is a member of the covid recovery group Nga iwi o Taranaki – Te Aranga – which supports kaiārahi groups.

They also operate in Ōpunake and Okato, and will soon start in the New Plymouth suburbs of Spotswood and Marfell.

Wano said it was a joint initiative involving Māori health providers in the area, the district health board and Pinnacle Health, and they now had street-by-street access to data, which allowed them to target their efforts on unvaccinated Maori and Pakeha.

“And that focus isn’t so much on those who aren’t interested. We’re not even going now. We’re focusing on those who are interested, but haven’t made that final change yet.

“And that for us – based on the data we’ve collected – is around 15 or 16 percent, so it’s still a really good percentage of people here in Waitara that we can still reach.”

Wano said that vaccination was only a goal of the kaiārahi’s work.

“This is about whanau welfare, so the message is to take care of our community and for us there is no discrimination as to whether it is Māori or Pakeha.

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“Yes, our goal is to increase the vaccination rate of Maori, but we don’t discriminate, we care about the well-being of the community. “

She said the reaction had been overwhelmingly positive.

“It’s fair to say that people are really thankful that someone cares because our conversation isn’t just about immunization, but wellness.

“You have your two percent not that good, but our team is really good, they just say ‘kei te pai, thank you’ and they go.”

Wano said there were many reasons people hadn’t been vaccinated.

“There’s still a lot of apathy. That, yes, was in Stratford but it’s not here. It’s not going to affect me.

“And there’s a proportion that doesn’t because it’s a mandate and I think it’s a challenge, so it’s a range of things. Some are due to access. Some don’t. really no access, don’t have cars. “

Wano said the outreach approach works with a small number of people making the decision to get vaccinated every day.

She hoped that the first remaining doses of 2005 needed for Maori to reach the 90% mark could be delivered.

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