Vaccination pressure, mandates, conflicting information and mistrust in authority are all factors stopping people from getting their “dots”, the head of a new rangatahi vaccination campaign says.
Musician Pere Wihongi is leading the Got Ya Dot campaign in Tāmaki Makaurau, designed to help bridge divisive conversations between whānau and friends who have strong feelings about the Covid-19 vaccination.
Forget jabs and vaccines, it’s all about the “dot”, says Wihongi, a new name that could help people have more comfortable conversations rather than turning them off.
Wihongi believes that most of those who are unvaccinated aren't anti-vax, they’re just still making up their minds.
He said 27-year-old Raniera Blake was a prime example of this, which was why Got Ya Dot led with him in its online messaging to rangatahi.
Blake, who lives in Auckland, became eligible to get his “dots” on September 1, alongside most people under 40.
Although he's had time, he said he was put off by people telling him what to do.
“I’m not anti-vax, e te whānau, I just don’t like getting told what to do. Let alone people telling me to bloody get a jab or get something shoved in my arm.”
Blake said he’d driven past vaccination centres but had never stopped before which he put down to laziness or wanting a different option.
- Pfizer booster jab reduces risk of Covid-19 hospitalisation by 93%
- New Zealand reaches 75 pct fully vaccinated
- Why Christchurch can take a lockdown gamble (and Auckland couldn't)
- 40 pct of New Zealand's workforce faces mandatory vaccination as Government announces sweeping changes
But he plans to get his first “dot” at the Got Ya Dot vaccination centre at Eden Park this weekend, it just took him time to come to that decision.
“I’ve got so many people talking to me in this ear like, ‘It’s a bad thing, blah, blah, blah, don’t get it’,” Blake said.
“I’ve got other whānau and friends in this ear saying, ‘Oh it’s really good, do it for the whakapapa, do it for your whānau.’
“I’m just going to make my own decisions, I’m just going to do whatever I want to do.”
While the campaign was focused on rangatahi Māori, all were welcome at the centres, Wihongi said, even if just to talk about their concerns.
He hoped that by enabling more comfortable conversations about getting “dotted”, the more protected all would be against the virus.
“The goal is specifically targeted at Māori, but it’s not limited to Māori.”
Mahitahi Hauora nurse and University of Auckland Associate Professor Terryann Clark agreed that the undecided needed support, not anger to feel comfortable about the vaccine.
She has been working with whānau throughout the roll-out, and said, while some questions surprised her, every question asked was a step closer to getting the jab.
“It’s important that we don’t have a go at them, that we are patient and love our whānau on their journey.”
There’s a variety of reasons why someone wasn’t vaccinated, and pressuring them did nothing but turn them off, Clark said.
“People are hōhā because people are telling them what to do. When they hear ‘Covid’, they switch off.
“But it’s about conversations and doing that with aroha and compassion. Not everyone is going to jump up and get it right away. It’s often a number of conversations and then people will get there.”
Clark was concerned conversations had become binary – you were either vaccinated or anti-vax.
“There’s going to be a whole lot of people who want to get on with life and there’s going to be a lot of pressure on non-vaccinated people.
“But they've been hearing all these really negative things and it causes anxieties.
“We need to support our whānau to block out these voices that are spilling mistruths because they’re getting more and more emboldened.”
While Blake’s kōrero was indicative of many people who were undecided, Wihongi agreed that there were other issues they were juggling.
“There’s a huge segregation around this topic. There’s a strong left and a strong right, but there’s a lot of whānau who are in between.”
To help them, especially rangatahi, it was crucial to change the narrative, to try to shift the experience from one of fear to comfort, Wihongi said.
“The V and J words come with these strong stigmas and traumas. They’re going to get really passionate, really defensive or switch off. It needs to be a comfortable topic of discussion before they get their dots.”
Wihongi said he was also concerned about the increasing time people have had to listen to misinformation.
“Questions like, ‘Why do we have to get it?’, ‘Why are they mandating it?’ – at the core of that there’s a mistrust in the system.
“But the real enemy is Covid, and that’s what we are uniting to fight.”
Nationally, 89 per cent of the eligible population have received their first vaccine and 77 per cent were double-vaccinated.
For Māori, the figures were 73 per cent and 54 per cent respectively
More than 440,000 people remain unvaccinated, the latest statistics from the Ministry of Health show, with people in the 12-34 age group making up over half that number, at 240,000. Of them, 120,000 identified as European/Other, while Māori and Pasifika numbered 117,000.
Where to get “dotted” this weekend
Eden Park: Saturday, November 6, 12-8pm; Sunday, November 7, 12-8pm
Te Kura Kaupapa Māori ā-rohe o Māngere: Saturday, November 6, 12-8pm; Sunday, November 7, 12-5pm
Kia Aroha College, Ōtara: Saturday, November 6, 12-8pm; Sunday, November 7, 12-5pm
Te Kura Kaupapa Māori o Hoani Waititi Marae, Oratia: Saturday, November 6, 12-8pm; Sunday, November 7, 12-5pm
Westlake Boys’ High School, Forrest Hill: Saturday, November 6, 12-8pm; Sunday, November 7, 12-5pm