A Murupara kaumātua says he and other local Māori don’t want the Pfizer vaccine and are waiting for other vaccines they think will be more effective.
The central North Island town has the lowest vaccine rate in the country despite the push to increase Māori vaccination rates. More than 90 percent of its residents are Māori.
But Pem Bird of Ngāti Manawa they won’t be getting the jab just yet.
“We're not following the Crown's directive. That has been our position for a while,” he says. “We won't jump when we're told to. We want the freedom to choose. We want a different vaccine.”
The Murupara community has met over recent months with health practitioners to discuss other vaccine options.
Other vaccines do better
“Overseas data shows that other vaccines have performed better in Israel, the USA and Africa. We've seen this and it's a good thing. We choose that option,” says Bird.
Ministry of health data shows that of the 1400 residents in Murupara, only 32 percent have had their first dose and just 16 per cent are fully vaccinated. On Super Saturday Vaxathon 103 people in Murupara were vaccinated.
Barbara Armstrong of the Bay of Plenty District Health Board, says the low numbers are a concern.
"But I'm not here to tell anybody what is right for their body, for their whānau, what they need. I am happy to sit down and listen and see what we can do to improve the health of everyone."
Bird says in time they will know if the decision to wait for a different vaccine is right or wrong. “But in the end I am following what my heart and mind tell me.”
Murupara GP may face disciplinary action
Meanwhile the Medical Council is expected to announce soon what action it will take against Murupara GP, Dr Bernard Conlon.
Conlon's clinic doesn’t offer Covid-19 vaccinations to Murupara residents. In a newsletter posted by his medical centre on its Facebook page, Conlon spoke about "his concerns with informed consent for children and pregnant women".
In August the Medical Council said there was no place for anti-vaccination messages in professional practice. To avoid public harm, the council can suspend a doctor or refer the matter to a professional conduct committee, which decides if it goes to the Health Practitioners Disciplinary Tribunal.