Vaccinations at Kaikōura marae realise decades-long dream

As Kaikōura prepares for a tourist boom, a decades-long dream for Te Tai O Marokura and Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura to protect its whānau with the flu vaccine and other vaccinations is coming to fruition.
For the first time, Kaikōura based health and social service provider Te Tai o Marokura and its partner Māori/Indigenous Health Innovation (MIHI) have been funded to deliver free influenza, MMR, and COVID-19 vaccinations at the same time, starting with a whānau health day at Takahanga Marae today.

The health day marks the first time these vaccines have all been delivered together by a kaupapa Māori health organisation in Te Waipounamu. Free general health checks are also available for the wider community and entertainment will be provided for tamariki.

Te Tai O Marokura has the mandate from Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura to care for the health and wellbeing of Ngāti Kurī and all those who reside in the takiwā. The health and social service provider based at Takahanga Marae says the whānau health day has been a long time coming.

“For more than a decade we have dreamt of protecting our people with vaccines at our marae. Our people fare better when they are greeted by our people, and we are so pleased we can offer them a kaupapa Māori environment to receive vaccines on their pā where they feel safe and at home,” says Lisa Kahu of Te Tai O Marokura.

Takahanga Marae General Manager Chevy Allen says the whānau health day is timely, with winter around the corner and a predicted tourist boom in Kaikōura as travel and border restrictions ease.

“We want to see whānau staying healthy and well, especially with winter coming up and the borders easing. Kaikōura is a tourist hot spot, and we fear influenza and COVID-19 could spread quite quickly here. Every person protected is better for the health of our people. There is a high risk of getting very unwell from the flu and COVID-19,” he says.

COVID-19 booster rates for Māori and tamariki vaccinations continue to remain low in Canterbury and throughout the country. According to Ministry of Health website, as of 25 April, Canterbury booster rates for Māori is at 61.4% and only 44.6% of tamariki Māori in Canterbury have been partially vaccinated.

“It’s important whānau Māori look after themselves. Health outcomes for Māori are often worse than the wider population. Health experts are worried the flu will hit extra hard this year, coupled with the risk of getting COVID-19. That’s why it’s important to get vaccinated,” adds Chevy.

By holding the health day at Takahanga Marae, Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura aims to remove as many barriers as possible for whānau Māori to access health services. Dr Maira Patu, GP and co-clinical lead of MIHI vaccination team says these barriers are not just the cost of healthcare or transport, but also the time vaccine clinics are run.

“Whānau can’t easily take time off mahi to see their GP or get vaccines, which is why our health day is running from 2.30pm to 7.00pm, to allow for those working to have an opportunity to come for their health checks after work.

“There are also whānau who are not registered with a GP or may have outstanding bills. So even if they are eligible for free vaccines, they are not accessing them – there is a whakamā (embarrassment),” explains Dr Maira.

She also wants to highlight that these vaccines are safe to be administered at the same time. Whānau will get assessed, can ask any pātai (questions), and can then receive the vaccines they need.

Several hundred people have already booked to attend. People can drop-in anytime between 2.30pm and 7.00pm. With manaaki at the centre of the kaupapa, the rūnanga and MIHI want whānau to feel welcome to get their vaccinations and discuss any health questions they may have. Kai and bouncy castles will be provided to entertain whānau.