The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners supports the call from Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā, the National Māori Pandemic Group, that unvaccinated Māori and Pasifika must be prioritised to receive their first COVID-19 vaccination.
College President Dr Samantha Murton says, "We know from data that Māori and Pasifika have greater health needs, increased levels of comorbidities, and are often more vulnerable to illness, which means greater death rates.
"It is a fundamental equity issue to vaccinate these communities now because the effects of COVID-19 for them will be more damaging than other groups.
"On a practical note, ensuring our most vulnerable groups are vaccinated and able to have a chance at fighting COVID-19 will also mean we’re preventing the possible overwhelm of the health system."
The College advocates that with the time between the first and second doses of the vaccine now extended to six weeks, and the presence of the delta variant in our community, efforts should be focused on ensuring as many Māori and Pasifika people as possible, particularly kaumatua, those with chronic health issues and hapū mama, receive their first dose and have some protection.
Dr Rachel Mackie, Chair of Te Akoranga a Māui, the College’s Māori special representative group echoes this call for action.
"We’ve seen how fast this virus can spread and the worrying low rates of vaccination within our Māori and Pasifika communities needs to be addressed - and fast.
"Māori health providers have been advocating for this prioritisation since the beginning of the vaccine rollout. There cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach. Adopting a community and whānau-based approach to vaccination is a better way to get these community vaccination rates up and we need all vaccination providers to focus their resources into vaccinating those most at risk."
The College urges the Government to listen to calls from providers across the health sector and make a commitment to reduce inequities in the COVID-19 vaccination programme - many lives depend on it.