Indigenous | Vaccines

Pharmac stops free flu vaccines for older Māori, Pasifika

Lady Tureiti Moxon says the decision is ‘another anti-Maōri stance’

Pharmac has withdrawn its support of free flu vaccines to Māori and Pasifika people aged 55 to 65.

This week Pharmac said it was injecting one million dollars into flu vaccines that will be available to those who are most vulnerable to influenza.

In 2022 and 2023 Pharmac widened the access to free vaccines for Māori and Pasifika aged 55-65 and children up to 12 years old by using funding from the government’s Covid-19 budget. But that budget has now ended.

Pharmac director pharmaceuticals Geraldine MacGibbo said: “We know it is difficult to hear that while you or your whānau were able to access the flu vaccine in the past for free, you don’t have that funded access now.”

She says the fixed budget from the government has led to making such difficult decisions of providing the vaccines only to those who are most vulnerable.

But a leading Māori health campaigner and Te Kōhao Health director Lady Tureiti Moxon says this is “another anti-Māori stance because their way of looking at this policy is very black and white, they are not looking at the fact that Māori die seven years younger.”

‘Another blow for low-income families’

“They are not looking at the fact that Māori actually are the ones who are worse off than everybody else and yet they are expecting that they are going to be paying for vaccinations.”

She says this is another blow for the families who are low-income and vulnerable, particularly those who live in poverty.

Te Aka Whai Ora chief medical officer Rawiri MacKree Jansen told RNZ today that Māori and Pasifika communities are more vulnerable to the flu and end up in the hospitals in that age group.

“I was surprised and I got the heads-up about a week, ten days ago. It’s a bit disappointing as it was an important contribution to better health outcomes, particularly Māori and Pacific”.

He said it was good for the system to admit fewer people to the hospitals for flu illness.

But it came as a “shock” to him that the system had a limited-time ethnicity adjuster.

The rationale for the original process was to prevent the age group from dying sooner, especially Māori and Pasifika.

- Additional reporting by RNZ

Te Rito