Willie Jackson defends Māori vaccination rollout in heated exchange

Willie Jackson has defended the Government’s Māori vaccination rollout in a heated exchange, as fears for whānau grow over New Zealand’s impending move to the traffic light system.

Since the beginning of the rollout, some Māori leaders, academics, and political parties have voiced their concerns around Māori in the vaccine rollout.

While addressing media on Tuesday, Jackson was pressed over the Government’s vaccination rollout strategy, with one reporter highlighting that Māori make up a large percentage of current hospitalisations and daily case numbers.

At present, only 65 per cent of Māori are double vaccinated, compared to 84 per cent of the eligible population. As of 9am Monday, 43 per cent of cases in the Delta outbreak were Māori, while 32 per cent of those hospitalised with Covid were Māori.

One reporter asked Jackson if he was happy to move to the new traffic light system, knowing those figures.

“I’m very happy, given that the strategy that this Government took in the first place in terms of vaccinating over 65s was the right strategy."

Jackson was asked questions about the impact the move to the traffic light system would have for Māori.

He then accused the reporter and Te Pāti Māori of wanting the Government, "to vaccinate every single Māori in the country, before Pākehā people who are 60-65 who have health problems".

Te Pāti Māori have claimed the Government have "failed to provide equitable opportunities for Māori to access information, resources and vaccinations", ignored advice from Māori pandemic group Te Rōpū Whakakaupapa Urutā, and have advocated for a "by Māori for Māori" approach. The Green Party has also raised concerns the new system could put Māori at risk.

Jackson began to leave, before returning to answer another question about him previously advocating for whānau to be vaccinated at the same time.

"We actually said to vaccinate whānau at the time... but, we said if you’re vaccinating Māori over 65, vaccinate the whole whānau at the same time.

“Of course there wasn't enough vaccine [at the time]... but we said if you had the opportunity to vaccinate whānau when kaumātua came in you should vaccinate whānau too."

Jackson left saying that "our groups and our people are a lot happier than what some of you media lot are carrying on about".