When Murihiku kaumātua were asked what they wanted to focus on at their annual Kaumātua Hauora Hui on May 11, they quickly pinpointed the Covid-19 vaccination programme.
For Murihiku Marae Ora Navigator, Hita Neho (Ngāpuhi), this provided the perfect opportunity for kaumātua and their wider whānau to address any concerns they might have about getting a Covid-19 vaccination.
“Unfortunately, there’s a lot of misinformation out there – much of it being spread on social media and most of it incorrect,” says Hita.
“A lot of our kaumātua are scared about getting a vaccine and they wonder why it’s necessary and what any side effects might be. Our aim at this hui, was to show them that while it’s natural to have a few concerns, the benefits of getting the vaccine far out-weigh any uncertainty.”
With support from the joint funding initiative of Te Pūtahitanga o Te Waipounamu and Pharmac to run the hui, Hita was able to invite respected experts to speak with kaumātua to allay their concerns.
One of those was Dr Sue Crengle (Kāi Tahu, Kāti Māmoe, Waitaha), a GP, University of Otago Professor of Māori Health and one of the leaders of Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā, the National Māori Pandemic Group, who believes reaching people with effective and trusted information about the Covid-19 vaccination programme is of huge importance to its success.
“It’s absolutely imperative that we get equitable Māori vaccinations and we need some Māori health figures to help do that – people of different ages and genders plus celebrities saying “I’ve got my vaccine and I’m encouraging my whānau too,” she has been reported as saying.
Southern District Health Board Medical Officer and WellSouth representative, Dr Susan Jack, also attended the hui to speak about the importance of Covid-19 vaccination and the awareness of symptoms of the illness.
She stressed that it was imperative that people with even the mildest symptoms get themselves tested for Covid-19 and that they stay home (or at their accommodation) until they feel better, or have received their test results.
Borne out of the weekly Kaumātua Coffee Club, the kaumātua-led Hauora Hui attracted more than fifty kāumatua and invited guests.
“We opened the event to the wider public and we also sent out invitations to nursing and rest homes, to all the marae in our area – Waihōpai, Awarua, Oraka Aparima and Hokonui – and to other Māori organisations in Invercargill,” says Hita Neho.
“And we couldn’t have done any of that without the funding we received from Te Pūtahitanga and Pharmac. They’ve been an enormous help to us in organising hui in the past too and this gives us an opportunity to better inform all our people not only about health but also wider issues as they arise. It’s an amazing chance that we are very grateful for.”
“We also arranged a Housie session in the afternoon for those interested. It’s all about having a giggle and a laugh and helping our kaumātua relax,” says Hita.