There was never any doubt in my mind about getting the vaccine. Having managed the Ngāti Rārua health services for twenty years until my retirement last year, I know how important it is for us to frontfoot this, because our Māori communities are always on the backfoot, especially when it comes to health. I would encourage everyone to get it because I think we are actually leading the world in keeping our whānau and our hapū and our iwi safe. When you look at what’s happening overseas, you can see that we’ve done very well so far and the vaccine is the best way to make sure that continues.
Our vaccination rates for Māori here in Te Tau Ihu are quite high, and I think that’s because there was a drive from a lot of us right from the beginning, to get the message out and to run our own clinics where our community would feel comfortable. I got my first dose at a regular clinic and I could see why some of our people were not feeling comfortable about going there. You’re standing in a line way out on the street and there’s no one to talk to and when you get inside it’s so quick, there’s no time to ask any questions. But at our clinics, it was like a day out – a really fun day where they could come and chat, have a cup of tea and some kai.
There were a few of our whānau members who were uncertain and one who was absolutely determined he wasn’t going to get it. They key to that is that we also have people in our community who are health professionals, nurses and doctors who are able to be at the forefront of our clinics so when people arrive they can actually ask questions – and they weren’t shy to do that!
If someone is feeling uncertain about the vaccine, I like one-to-one conversations so you can get to know why – whether they’re scared, whether they’ve read another theory online. So they totally disagree and want nothing to do with it, that’s one conversation. But if they’re scared and want to know more about it, that’s a different one. We need to make sure everyone has somewhere they can go to have that conversation, whether it’s their GP if they have a good relationship or to a Māori NGO.
I have had experience with some of our whānau who were uncertain and sometimes even determined they weren’t going to have it. Usually all they needed was to talk to the right person to make them feel comfortable. And I have had those conversations to say it’s more than you that you need to be looking out for – don’t run a risk for your babies and your whānau by not getting it.