Friday, December 22, 2023

Point of Order: Buzz from the Beehive - 21/12/23

Stats that made the case for a Māori Health Authority might also have made the case for a change of government

A decline in rates of immunisation among children in recent years – particularly among Māori children – was drawn to the attention of Point of Order while we were considering a press statement from Health Minister Shane Reti.

We were tempted to suppose that putting health in the hands of Andrew Little might have had something to do with this.

Then again, maybe we hadn’t noticed an exacerbation of the grim impacts of colonisation during that time.

The press statement from Shane Reti announced a two-year $50 million package to help Māori health providers lift immunisation rates.

It vied for media attention alongside news on the government’s official website about the passage of legislation to extend the availability of 90-day trials to all businesses and the repeal of the Natural and Built Environment Act and the Spatial Planning Act.

Latest from the Beehive

21 DECEMBER 2023

Health Minister Dr Shane Reti has announced a two-year $50 million package to help Māori health providers lift immunisation rates.

The Government has delivered on its commitment to extend the availability of 90-day trials to all businesses, passing the Employment Relations (Trial Periods) Amendment Bill in Parliament today.

20 DECEMBER 2023

Parliament has passed legislation repealing the Natural and Built Environment Act and the Spatial Planning Act as part of the Government’s 100-day plan, RMA Reform Minister Chris Bishop says.

Launching the $50 million package in Porirua today, Shane Reti said the government was determined to improve immunisation rates for all children, “including low-coverage Māori babies and children”.

It would be comforting to think that when a government says it wants to do something for all children, it means the programme will be applied to help “all children”. This would make it unnecessary to identify ethnicities.

In this case, perhaps Reti was thinking of his Treaty obligations.

Anyway, he went on to show he can communicate with the same bewildering mix of English and Te Reo that was the argot of his Labour predecessors:

“When there are outbreaks of serious disease like whooping cough or measles, which happens usually every three to four years, it’s high-needs communities and pēpi Māori who are often more adversely affected.

“Immunisation is one of the best ways to set up tamariki for a healthy future.

“It protects them from serious but preventable disease and reduces the risk of hospitalisation or worse – something no parent wants to face.

“We also want to be able to offer additional immunisation protection for our elders who need it.”

“Of the $50 million over two years, $30 million will go to Whānau Ora providers to work with those most at risk – Māori and non-Māori pēpi, hāpu māma, and kaumātua. An additional $10 million will go to North Island partners and $10 million to South Island partners.

“The new funding will play a vital role in helping Māori health providers better reach out into their communities.”

Whānau Ora serviced the under-privileged and hard-to-reach communities where vaccination would be offered to everyone who was eligible, and Māori and non-Māori who were ready to be vaccinated, Reti explained.

Then he reminded us:

“National campaigned on improved immunisation rates and it’s a key part of our health targets.”

Also in Porirua, Reti launched My Health Record, an app giving people improved access to their personal health records, and confirmed the expansion of the Aotearoa Immunisation Register (AIR), to support vaccination outreach activity.

The expanded register went live in early December, enabling health providers and vaccinators to view gaps in immunisation history and offer vaccinations through existing GP connections or a vaccinator portal.

The press statement finished with some bemusing statistics.

Current Māori immunisation rates are:
  • 66.8 per cent at 8 months
  • 70.1 per cent at 24 months
  • 69.7 per cent at 5 years
Hmm. That reminded us of the findings from a study by the University of Otago – published earlier this year – which found the numbers of children receiving the first measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine was declining.


Yep. RNZ reported:

A new study by the University of Otago has found not enough children under the age of five in New Zealand are protected against measles to stop a potential national outbreak.

This is because the number of children receiving the first measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine is declining.

The first MMR vaccine (MMR1) decreased from 95.1 percent for children born in 2017 to 88.9 percent for those born in 2020.

The second MMR vaccine (MMR2) was below 90 percent for all years examined, the lowest percentage being 61.6 percent for children born in 2018.

Lead author Dr Nienke Hagedoorn, of the Department of Paediatrics, said that percentage of immunisation coverage was insufficient to prevent community transmission in children under five.

More than 95 percent coverage for the first vaccine is required.

During the year when the study was conducted, the district health boards in Bay of Plenty, Lakes, Northland, Tai Rāwhiti, West Coast and Whanganui all reported less than 90 per cent vaccination for MMR1.

And here are the fascinating figures related to ethnicity:

The study also found that MMR1 coverage was lowest for children of Māori ethnicity, and this declined over time from 92.8 percent for those born in 2017 to 78.4 percent for those born in 2020.

In other words, the MMR1 coverage for children of Māori ethnicity born in 2017 had been 92.8 per cent, not much below the overall rate of 95.1 percent

Under the Ardern government, the overall rate dropped to 88.9 per cent but the Māori rate dropped to 78.4 per cent.

You might call that a slump.

Because of a widening of the disparities between Māori and non-Māori health measures, we were told a Māori Health Authority was essential.

Another possibility – of course – was that a change of government might do the trick.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton

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