by Conan Tait

According to Dr Owen Sinclair (Te Rarawa): “To put it bluntly, the reason Maori rates [of getting the jab] are so low is because they cannot get immunised” he told The Post [formerly the Dominion Post] as published on 13 June. Dr Sinclair (Te Rarawa) goes on: “The problems are systemic … underlined with a big dose of systemic racism”.

The mainstream media (MSM) and The Post accepted the Sinclair (Te Rarawa) revelation as proven fact — he had uncovered yet further evidence of systemic racism in NZ. The tribal identification meant that any questioning of the Sinclair claim would itself be a ‘racist’ and therefore unpublishable. But is Sinclair right? 

What does the government data say? 

Sinclair (Te Rawara) was responding to the latest Ministry of Health data (January 2023 to March 2023) on how many children in NZ had been fully vaccinated against diptheria, tetanus, whooping cough, measles, mumps, polio. It shows that by the age of two, 82% of NZ children have been vaccinated. For Māori it was 69% –13% less. This statistic is hard to equate with systemic racism. Further Ministry of Health data from 2014 says “By 2 years of age, the coverage rates were 91.9% for Māori children and 92.8% for total New Zealand children”. This proves systemic racism?

Immunsation at age 2 is the relevant figure concerning improving health and wellbeing. Dr Sinclair accepts this — in a backhanded way. To show there is systemic racism, Dr Sinclair (Te Rarawa) selectively referred to vaccinations rates at age 6 months. Across all ethnic groups it is approximately 67%  but for “pepi Maori” it was only 47%. According to The Post he justified his reliance on this data to prove systemic racism because, “A baby having their 6 week immunisations done on time [is] the single biggest predictor of them having the rest of their immunisations on schedule.” 

The schedule for 2 year olds is the most important. The data shows that rather than Maori children getting less immunised they increased their rates from 47% to 67%. 

Systemic racism — the evidence Sinclair relies on

To get the jabs a child has to be first registered with a GP. The Post reports Sinclair as saying this is a racial barrier to Māori for the following reasons:

1.      GP’s are overloaded and cannot accept new patients so newborn Maori are excluded. According to Sinclair this is a not a problem for ethnicities other than Māori.

2.    Māori are unable to get registered because they cannot provide a ‘stable address’.

3.     Māori are unable to get registered because they cannot provide a phone number. 

4.     Reliable transport is needed — apparently unavailable to Māori.

5.      Having to get the jabs at times scheduled by the nurse rather than at the election of the Maori parents.

Common sense and knowing how the world works may have said all these 5 factors are nothing to do with racism, but are sociologically and economically driven. The Post, accepting the Sinclair analysis, states “Māori whanau are less likely to have access to address, communication and transport security”. 

Is it helpful and constructive to claim difficulty to get listed with a GP, transport cost for the economically deprived and having to say where you live as being systemic racism?  

NZ guilty of systemic racism?

So, NZ has been found guilty of systemic racism regarding the highly important medical health issue of prevention of disease spread. Systemic means being part of the system i.e the government as well as a “problem that affects the whole of an organization or place “.

 What does the systemic system say?

The Ministry of Health states this is how the health system ihas been delivered for the last 10 years and as recorded in Whakamaua: Māori Health Action Plan 2020-2025

“It is the implementation plan for He Korowai Oranga, New Zealand’s Māori Health Strategy – it will help us achieve better health outcomes for Māori by setting the government’s direction for Māori health advancement over the next five years.”

Whakamaua is underpinned by the Ministry’s new Te Tiriti o Waitangi Framework, which provides a tool for the health and disability system to fulfil its stewardship obligations and special relationship between Māori and the Crown.

Whakamaua outlines a suite of actions that will help to achieve four high-level outcomes. These are:

·      Iwi, hapū, whānau and Māori communities exercising their authority to improve their health and wellbeing.

·      Ensuring the health and disability system is fair and sustainable and delivers more equitable outcomes for Māori.

·      Addressing racism and discrimination in all its forms. 

Protecting mātauranga Māori throughout the health and disability system.

Whakamaua is a conduit to empowering the voices of whānau, lifting the visibility of Māori health needs, and positions the health and disability system to protect the health of iwi, hapū, whānau and Māori communities and respond and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

 Whakamaua emphasises the significance of Te Tiriti o Waitangi as a foundational document for public policy. The text of Te Tiriti, including the preamble and three articles, along with the Ritenga Māori declaration, are the enduring pillars of Whakamaua. (p5)

Systemic racism? Why have Maori immunisation rates dramatically declined since 2014?

In 2014 Maori children had high immunisation rates according to the Ministry of Health data: 

Childhood immunisation coverage information from the National Immunisation Register (NIR) shows that in 2014, at the age of 8 months, 88.9% of Māori children had completed age-appropriate immunisations, compared with 91.9% of total New Zealand children. By 2 years of age, the coverage rates were 91.9% for Māori children and 92.8% for total New Zealand children.”

Since then NZ has replaced its previously alleged ‘racist’ model with the Whakamaua: Māori Health Action Plan 2020-2025 set out above.  It is compliant with claimed Treaty of Waitangi principles — and is the outcome of Maori direction and scholarship. So why, after 3 years since its implementation in 2020 are immunisation rates down? Maori children had  91.9% in 2014; today 47% according to Sinclair and 66% according to the Ministry of Health.

 Is the allegation of systemic racism a mirage? More fundamentally, why is it that under this Tiriti /Maori co-partnership model, outcomes have worsened according to the data? Perhaps the data, like Trump’s votes in the 2020 US presidential election were allegedly changed because of statistical bias, racist in NZ’s case.