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Should the Covid-19 vaccine rollout be adopted as a template for the future?

Lachlan Rennie
Child receiving vaccine
Child receiving vaccine.  Photo by Ed Us on Unsplash

Te Whatu Ora is currently considering the future of New Zealand immunisation - so what worked from New Zealand's biggest vaccination rollout?

Te Whatu Ora is accepting the Taskforce Immunisation report which outlines 26 actions to fix current vaccine inequity for Māori.

Fears are rising for an outbreak following a third infant death from whooping cough-pertussis on Tuesday. Vaccines against the lethal disease are critically low especially for Māori tamariki.

Currently only 63% of Aotearoa tamariki are vaccinated against the disease which is a huge decrease since the last outbreak in 2018. 

But for Māori tamariki, they find themselves most at risk with just 49% vaccinated against whooping cough.

Director for Te Whatu Ora, Dr Nick Chamberlain, acknowledges the current system is not working and urgently needs to be fixed.

“As the report acknowledges, there is a real and urgent need to continue to lift child vaccination rates and build a more equitable immunisation system, particularly for tamariki Māori who are most at risk, and that we need to do better in this regard." 

Te Whatu Ora have now said they will look at Covid-19 as a template to roll out vaccinations.


Dr Mamaeroa David
Dr Mamaeroa David Supplied by Dr Mamaeroa David

Vaccine specialist Dr Mamaeroa David said Covid had already given us an example of how communities can be resourced to vaccinate their own and take pressure off an already stressed system.

“I think Covid proved that Māori and Pasifika organisations are very capable of providing vaccinations directly to their community effectively.”

She said current vaccination rollouts hadn’t been effective enough and a targeted community-led approach similar to the Covid-19 vaccine rollout was much more accessible for Māori and Pasifika.

“The current system has outcomes that are not equitable for Māori and Pasifika… communities know their own needs the most, just give them the resources to service themselves.”

David sees the strain the health system currently has and thinks the non-medical vaccine health workers that were trained during Covid are incredibly valuable to help isolated communities and relieve overworked doctors and nurses.

“It would absolutely take the pressure off … and with these workers they would only need a nurse and a few vaccinating health workers to help the community.”

Amber Clark
Amber Clark at Whitiora Lachlan Rennie

Amber Clark is from Christchurch-based Whitiora Centre Limited. They pursue equitable outcomes for communities from Kaikōura to Lyttelton.

During the Covid-19 pandemic she worked with community groups to deploy the Covid vaccine.

She found the community vaccine clinics were a wholesome experience connecting whānau and friends.

“It was great, everyone can have a laugh, catch up and share some kai.”

She thinks during Covid, community-run clinics were a great example of when the vaccination rollout worked best.

“When the rollout really worked, was when the system listened to those people who knew their own communities well and just furnished them with the resource.”

Clark believes community-led strategies are essential instead of a blanket approach.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution, it doesn't work. It works for a majority, that's what we have got the recipe for, but we need a whole varied strategy for different communities and give power to them because they’re experts for their own needs.”

Clark thinks that Government policy and statements can only go so far to service communities.

“All the best intentions in the world do not equate to the same thing as having someone who is already trusted in that community you are trying to serve, with the networks and the trust to be able to feed that into systems of response.”

Clark wants to see vaccinations happen now and doesn’t want whooping cough to be another devastating outbreak for the Māori community which has already had terrible outbreaks in the past.

You can read the full Taskforce Immunisation report here.