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Māori And Pasifika Hardest Hit By Delta; What Will We Do Differently With Omicron?

Health inequities are not new and have sadly played out again throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Analysis of New Zealand’s earlier COVID-19 outbreaks showed clear and predictable inequities, such as Māori being 2.5 times more likely to require hospitalisations for COVID-19 infection compared to non-Māori and non-Pacific people [1].

The Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners says the new plan does not have specific detail to show how this will change with the Omicron outbreak.

College President Dr Samantha Murton says, "We have general practitioners and their teams that have been in the thick of the Delta outbreak and know what is needed.

"With an Omicron outbreak GPs and their teams across the country will once again be stepping up and filling the gaps to ensure their communities are as safe as possible. A focus on Māori is essential and needs to be across all practices to reach all Māori. Learning from what has gone before and factoring those lessons into any plan or strategy is essential."

Chair of the College’s specialist Māori representative group, Te Akoranga a Māui, Dr Rachel Mackie says, "Equity is a major health concern but once again we are seeing a plan that doesn’t consider Māori. There are many Māori teams and groups who have been working hard through COVID-19 and their knowledge needs to be fed into these plans every step of the way.

Te Akoranga a Māui will work with the membership and guide them through equity considerations so those working on the frontline of the pandemic can provide resources and support to whānau. It is crucial that Māori are engaged with early, preferably prior to any contact with Omicron.

Vaccination and booster rates are also lagging and need to be a focus of attention across the motu. Ministry of Health figures show that only 84 percent of Māori across New Zealand are fully vaccinated; we need to increase those numbers with urgency.

"There are still some Māori who are not engaged with primary healthcare, for a variety of reasons, yet the plan is community management. More information on how that would practically happen is needed.

"The lack of planning for our Māori population is disappointing, and needs to change," says Dr Mackie.

[1] Steyn N, Binny RN, Hannah K, et al. Māori and Pacific people in New Zealand have a higher risk of hospitalisation for COVID-19. N Z Med J 2021; 134.

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