National | John Tamihere

Whānau Ora again denied crucial Māori vaccination data

The Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency has again been denied access to data it says is crucial to lifting rates of vaccination for children aged 5-11 yrs old.

The agency this week received a letter from health director-general Dr Ashley Bloomfield rejecting its request for access to data for Māori children.

"While the High Court decision provided useful general guidance for the release of personal vaccination information about Mãori, it did not consider the potential sharing of personal contact information and vaccination status about tamariki. The information requested for 5 to 11-year-olds is sensitive, given it involves children's personal health and contact information."

This comes after a Wellington High Court decision last year required the Ministry of Health to hand over Māori data to the agency.

Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency chief executive John Tamihere says the ministry's decision to deny the request is at odds with the High Court decision.

South Aucklanders worried

"The court has told them on two occasions. He's wrong, and now he denies us access to our tamariki data. What does that tell you about Bloomfield? But not just about Bloomfield but about the people in the Ministry of Health?"

While the vaccination drive for children is only weeks old, the difference in rates amongst Māori compared to the wider population is stark.

According to Ministry of Health data, of the 115,562 Māori children aged 5-11 yrs old, only 24,544 or 21% have had their first dose, while 183,706, or 39% of children of other ethnicities have received theirs.

Those figures are worrying not only for Whānau Ora but also for those who work on the ground, particularly in South Auckland.

'Already suspicious'

In South Auckland, only 2,680 Māori children have had their first jab. According to Te Rata Hikairo, a teacher in South Auckland, there is a fear that once again Māori will be left behind.

False allegations were made that Manurewa Marae was administering fake Covid-19 vaccinations and Hikairo says that made an already suspicious Māori population more worried about taking their children to get vaccinated.

"It's just the unfounded, untrue, false story. Immediately people say 'Oh my gosh, I got vaccinated, it wasn't even a true vaccination that I got? Oh, I might not even be properly vaccinated. People were actually quite scared."

Te Ao Māori News asked the Ministry of Health about the request for Māori data. Its national immunisation programme director, Astrid Koornneef, replied: "The Ministry of Health is actively engaging with representatives from the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency and other key stakeholders to work through the formal data request."

"The Ministry of Health has met all of its obligations and shared all relevant Māori vaccination health information with the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency in keeping with the High Court’s ruling released in early December."

"The court had commented on aspects of the ministry's decision-making in making data available to both Whānau Ora and other Māori organisations but did not direct the ministry to release all data to Whānau Ora, acknowledging the progress made by the Ministry to support Māori vaccinations."