MoH 'holding back' Northlanders getting vaxxed - Harawira

Source: 1News

Hone Harawira is continuing calls for the Ministry of Health to provide Northlanders' vaccine data, saying it's holding up the ability to contain the Covid-19 in Tai Tokerau.

Harawira, the head of Te Tai Tokerau Border Control on Friday told Breakfast that time and resource was currently being wasted as health providers don't know who's vaccinated against Covid-19 and who is not.

It comes as the upper part of Northland returned to Alert Level 2 at 11.59pm on Thursday, despite there being 25 current Delta cases in the wider region, including seven new cases reported on Thursday and a further possible case under investigation.

Northland is still lagging behind the rest of Aotearoa when it comes to vaccination coverage.

And, according to RNZ, the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency (WOCA) is going back to court to again try and get the data from the Ministry of Health of unvaccinated Māori. It comes after previous attempts by the agency.

Harawira, a former MP, praised the "genuinely heroic efforts" from Māori health providers to push vaccinations.

"But if there's one thing holding us back ... in our ability to manage and contain this crisis it's the refusal of the Ministry of Health to provide us with the detail and the data we need to instantly get in touch with those whānau, wrap around them and do what we can to keep them contained," he told the Breakfast host.

The ministry is refusing to provide the contact information of unvaccinated people in Northland for privacy reasons.

In a letter to Whānau Ora chief executive John Tamihere last Friday, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said: "In seeking to ascertain the Māori rights and interests that could be impacted by the disclosure of information for the entirety of Te Ika a Maui, and in light of the evidence of vaccine uptake and coverage, we have concluded that it would not be appropriate to adopt a blanket approach to the sharing of Māori health information you have requested on a North Island-wide basis."

In a statement to 1New on Friday, Director-General of Health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said the Ministry of Health was continuing to work with Whānau Ora, iwi and others to ensure data – including individual level data – was made available to support vaccination efforts in Tāmaki Makaurau and Waikato.

"The Ministry already shares significant data with WOCA (the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency), and what is being sought is an extension of that," he said.

"We have been advised that new proceedings have been filed in court by WOCA. The Ministry will now take the appropriate time to consider this and work through the issues raised.

"Given the court process, we are unable to comment further."

But on Breakfast, Harawira rejected the privacy excuse, saying the ministry shouldn't be concerned about individuals' privacy when "the health and wellbeing of the whole community is at stake".

"I'm at this point, if people start dying in the Far North, I know a big part of that is because we are running around chasing our tails trying to find out who these people are," he said.

"We can find them through the kūmara vine, but it would be a lot easier if we knew who they were instantly so we could wrap around them immediately."

So how would it help that information if it was released?

Harawira said health and Māori officials were currently working in a "hit and miss" way.

"In a street, for example, where there's 200 houses, if you know where the four houses are that need to be targetted then you can identify who those people are, what their needs are, how best you can meet those needs and how you can encourage them in a positive way to come and get vaccinated," he explained.

"You're not wasting time on all the other 196 houses, that's really what it's all about.

"It's about ensuring those in genuine need and those who are unvaccinated. Sure there are the anti-vaxxers but once you identify them you set them aside and you work on those who are unvaccinated and really don't know how to get the vaccine."

Amid this battle with the ministry and rising Covid-19 cases, though, Harawira said he couldn't understand the Government's decision to lower the alert level in Northland.

"The cases are going up and up and up, we can't understand why the levels have come down," he said.