The Wellington region will today reach 90 per cent fully vaccinated for its eligible Māori population, the first DHB in the country to hit this milestone.
Capital and Coast District Health Board (CCDHB) confirmed the 90 per cent threshold was due to be reached this afternoon.
Ora Toa PHO Clinical director and Porirua GP Dr Sean Hanna said the milestone represented months of long hours and innovative thinking to vaccinate hard-to-reach pockets of the community.
"You name it, people have done it,' he said.
"We've done some overnight events in Porirua which attracted a younger crew, we've gone out to transitional and Kainga Ora housing, to Rangitahi-led events."
"Just this week we've been walking alongside Māori wardens, door-knocking in Waitangirua and Porirua East with a vaccinating team."
"We've also done marae-based events, and we've had vaccinators going out to Mongrel Mob pads - all sorts of ways of taking vaccination out into the community."
CCDHB Chief Executive Fionnagh Dougan said the dedication and perseverance of the Māori vaccination programme had been "beyond impressive".
"Each week our providers pore over detailed information showing which suburbs need more attention and devise the best way to reach them, shifting their approach based on experience and evolving knowledge of our communities."
"As vaccination percentages climbed past 80 per cent we needed to reach more deeply into communities.
"At times it was challenging, but teams were determined to continue their work to protect their communities."
She said the Upper Hutt city was already well above 90 per cent fully vaccinated for Māori, and the whole Hutt Valley DHB area was "tantalisingly close" - only four per cent away.
Hanna said CCDHB being first in the country to reach Māori vaccination targets was largely due to the trust placed in iwi providers to deliver to their own communities.
"Our DHB very early on trusted the iwi and provider out in Porirua with the resources and the funding to be able to reach the community, and that hasn't been the case elsewhere in New Zealand."
While 90 per cent was a significant milestone, Hanna said the aim should be higher still.
"There are parts of Auckland or the whole population which are close to 100 per cent and I won't be happy until all of our population – particularly our marginal population – are approaching 100 per cent."
With CCDHB passing the 90 per cent milestone for the general population on November 29 last year, Hanna said the lag for Māori vaccination would provide valuable lessons for future healthcare delivery, even beyond the pandemic.
"It speaks to the structural racism in the health system and prioritising the majority rather than thinking about health in a pro-equity way," he said.
"I think if we'd prioritised Māori earlier on we wouldn't have been in this situation."
Learning experiences from the vaccine rollout would help inform how booster shots, and Pfizer for 5–11-year-olds - due to begin later this month - could be delivered more equitably.
"There's been a massive rush on people walking into vaccine centres and getting their booster, and we need to be making sure that the people who are rushing in and getting their boosters are Māori and Pacific, as well as the rest of us."
"It's really important that we don't drop the ball and that we continue to properly resource vaccination, and that we get everybody through the door, not leaving people behind."
The explosion of Omicron in Australia had highlighted the importance of the third dose, but Hanna was confident most vaccinated Māori would return for their booster shot.
"The biggest hurdle is in that first dose," he said.