Morbid Symptoms: Why Are Māori Vaccination Rates Plummeting?


MĀORI  vaccination rates are plummeting. The percentage of 8-month-old Māori babies in Counties Manukau receiving their primary course of immunisation on time has fallen from 85 percent in May 2020 to 68 percent in May 2021. The data for Pasifika also shows a fall-off in timely immunisation. From 93 percent of babies receiving their primary course on time in October 2020, to 82 percent in May 2021. Those New Zealanders who do not fall into the Māori, Pasifika or Asian categories – presumably the Pākeha population – also registered a slight fall-off. From around 92 percent in 2020 to just under 90 percent in 2021. Only Asian New Zealanders immunised their children in numbers above the 95 percent target rate. Fully 98 percent of their 8-month-olds are receiving their jab on time.

These statistics are grim. Clearly, something important has happened over the course of the past 18 months to discourage Māori parents from immunising their children on time. The most obvious suspect is, of course, the Covid-19 Pandemic. Its disruptive effects tend to be concentrated among the poorest sections of any given population: African-Americans in the USA; peasants and slum-dwellers in India. After the elderly and the chronically-ill, it is the poorly-paid, the poorly-housed and the poorly-educated members of society that Covid-19 strikes down.

An evaluation of the immunisation services provided to the Counties Manukau DHB does not, however, blame Covid-19 for the sudden drop-off in the Māori vaccination rate. The failure to maintain the pre-Covid percentage is, instead, attributed to: “Cultural microaggressions, white privilege, stereotyping and prejudice.” The authors of this evaluation identified “a failing and culturally incompetent system” as the culprit. “Whānau were in a constant state of stress forced to engage in a system that is inherently racist. Implicit and explicit biases, as forms of racism, were present in both whānau and staff interviews.”

The NZ Herald (whose investigative efforts are responsible for bringing the report of the Counties Manukau DHB’s innovation and improvement centre, “Ko Awatea”, to the public’s attention) suggests that its authors are firmly of the view that the racism identified can only be remedied by setting up a framework for radical cultural change within the institution:

“This should aim to decolonise dominant discourse and biases … Understanding of the journey from historical trauma to the manifestation of Māori health status today is integral for staff to increase cultural competency and responsiveness.”

One can only assume that, in this instance, the “dominant discourse and biases” in need of decolonisation is medical science itself. The obvious implication being that the whole notion of “medical science” is a white supremacist construct which arrogantly denies the possibility of any other rational system for understanding and managing the health of human beings.

The scientific method does not, however, acknowledge a place for this kind of relativistic thinking. Quite correctly, scientists warn that if we say that vaccination is just one way among many of successfully controlling potentially fatal communicable diseases, then we are effectively giving anti-vaxxers carte blanche to spread their dangerous lies far and wide. Indeed, one could argue that it would be a particularly pernicious form of racism that pretended to acknowledge the efficacy of indigenous medicines while quietly ensuring that those who placed their trust in “White Medicine” enjoyed measurably better health outcomes than those who were encouraged to believe otherwise.

One might further speculate that the attribution of all Māori misfortunes to the effects of ‘colonisation’, up to and including the transmission of colonial-era trauma (presumably genetically) through successive generations of the colonised, is almost certain to foster a deep-seated mistrust of the colonialists’ descendants. That being the case, there is scant reason for any Māori accepting this explanation to trust a single word the Pākeha Plunket nurses/vaccinators, contracted by the Counties Manukau DHB to lift the level of Māori immunisation, might say.

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If so, then the consequences can only have been made more serious by the contemporaneous global upsurge in anti-racist activism driven by the Black Lives Matter movement following the murder of George Floyd by a White American police officer in May 2020. These protests intensified dramatically the conviction (among Whites as well as Blacks) that the evils of White Supremacy were both universal and irreversible. The Day of Jubilee would only come when People of Colour took their futures into their own hands. As that unfolds, they advised, the best thing Whites can do is shut up and get out of their way.

Though essentially unrelated to the anti-racist upsurge, the rapid spread of outlandish conspiracy theories which accompanied the intensification of the global Covid-19 Pandemic contributed hugely to a growing loss of faith in all forms of authority. Not only scientists were challenged, but so, too, were mainstream politicians and journalists. Social-media-generated conspiracies filled the vacuum which this widespread rejection of “the system” had created – especially among those who felt excluded from the good life so many others seemed to enjoy.

Overlay these deep-seated feelings of social inferiority and rejection with ethnicity, and you have the makings of a perfect storm.

That the very health-sector groups most likely to benefit from the Labour Government’s radical plans to restructure the New Zealand health service, might seize upon this moment to offer up yet more evidence of the urgent need to create a health service run by Māori, for Māori, within an aggressively decolonised co-governance structure, is hardly surprising.

Most of all, it was important for the decolonisers to keep at bay the most obvious socio-economic explanations for the sudden drop-off in Māori vaccinations. Any notion that the failure to vaccinate their kids on time might have less to do with the fact that they were brown, and a lot more to do with the fact that they were poor, had to be excluded from the explanatory framework.

Certainly, the contribution of Dr Nikki Turner, director of the Immunisation Advisory Centre, would not have been welcomed by the ‘It’s all the fault of colonisation’ brigade. The final paragraph of Nicholas Jones’ Herald article is the clincher:

“There were many factors behind the drop off, Turner said, including badly stretched health services, the need for more cultural sensitivity, and increasing poverty and stress on families, who move more because of the housing crisis.”

Tragically, the interests tied up in the transformation of the New Zealand health system have little incentive to alienate the economic elites with whom they are, for the moment, collaborating. Māori-Pakeha co-governance may be possible under Capitalism, but the elimination of social and economic injustice is not. The system change we need is not the one foreshadowed in He Puapua.

It was the Italian socialist, Antonio Gramsci, who said it best:

“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”

Like plummeting Maori vaccination rates.




  1. Before we throw the baby out with the bath water look at it from another angle, nearly 7 out of 10 Maori families do get their kids vaccinated, 8.2 Pacifica, 9.0 non anything and 9.8 Asian.

    As for the minority who don’t, it will the same as those who do not bother wearing masks on public transport, they don’t see the worth and the worst reason of all for anything, it’s just easier not to. And the easy road always leads to destruction.

    Or it’s the 100000 words above, colonization, racism being the key 2021 go to words. And the white guys fault!

    • I can see your error. Not all intersectional studies are created equal. When it comes to causal inferences such as race, culture or fashion, some intersectional studies are effectively longitudinal.

  2. Vaccination rates are plummeting for the same reason school attendance is plummeting and gang membership is rising.

    If you create a welfare system that encourages the most hapless and least competent in society to breed; this is the end result. Guaranteed.

    Our good intentions have led to hell, just as you’d expect.

    • Again for the millionth time it’s not about theoretical economics into the unemployed community. It’s a debt thing. The greater the private debt, the greater the spread in inequality. The greater the public debt, the greater the public good. If I have that wrong please hold my hand and walk me through the broad outline of your theory. For a more nuance discussion we can do a face to face chat via Facebook live. Just set one up and send me the link.

    • School attendance could be dropping because the kids prefer watching porn when their parents are at work for all we know. Seems more likely that is the case actually.

    • My dear friend Aircooled. I think the point the point is that the ‘identity’ analysis is a false idol. Drivel that might be, but I’ve yet to see a convincing argument! Surely – in the words of Eric Weinstein – it is just a ‘cheaper constituency’ than labour. Thanks.

      • I guess Chris is too nuanced for me to get it. Great Data out of Israel today no difference in death rate for under 50’s with cocktail versus without

    • No. The real question is how many unemployed professors of decolonisation just straight up abricated there data. Such a shame that there getting discovered as the frauds they are.

      • It could be many reasons. Negligence, slipping through cracks, not within health guidelines of monitoring windows…, etc the point is just that it doesnt entail a disagreement.

  3. If Covid and it’s “vaccines” have not contributed to a hesitancy yet they certainly will do so in the near future. When all the facts of the pandemic that is no worse than the flu , and the experimental vaccines that are causing more deaths to those below 50yrs of age than the disease are widely understood, the hyper promotion of the injections by the authorities coupled with the side effects and the innocuous nature of the disease will cause a loss of trust that will take generations to recover from.
    D J S

    • The solution DJS may be to back your theory by injecting covid into your bloodstream because at the moment your opinion holds no validity. Experts around the world call it a pandemic, yet you see it as no worse than the flu. What is that based on?

    • Upvote DJS (and no petty pedantry this time!!)
      It is astounding to me that our “experts” continue to degrade the reputation of vaccination in general by promoting a procedure that is inadequately tested (by the Pharmaceutical industry itself) and that the public must, quite rightly, distrust.
      Take one example. The double vaxxed British Health Secretary Sajid Javid has just entered isolation due to having caught the virus.
      I don’t think it made the news here in NZ and I have seen no comment from our “experts”.
      Do they think the general public is incapable of comprehending that, in this case, the vaccine failed?
      Do they think that the general public is incapable of comparing the credentials of the pink-haired lady and the fellow with black-rimmed glasses (I forget his name) with those of the plethora of renowned specialists who have severe misgivings such as:
      Dr. Robert Malone, inventor of mRNA vaccine technology, said he is worried that the most-vaccinated countries in the world are experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases, while the least-vaccinated countries are not.
      Dr Peter McCullough
      Sucharit Bhakdi
      …to mention just a few.
      There is an urgent debate needed but we are not getting it.

      • I am not a medical person but understand the situation with the vaccine is it lessens the effect of the illness just like the flu vaccine.
        The case of the UK Health Minister was on National radio and came up in a discussion this afternoon.

    • I am surprised this rubbish was allow to be printed . Anyone looking at the results in the UK can see the good that vaccine does .Are you one of this religious nuts that are persuading Fijians to die rather than be vaccinated.
      The main reason Maori and Pacifica do not get vaccinated is due to their churches and poor leadership .

      • “Are you one of this religious nuts that are persuading Fijians to die rather than be vaccinated.”
        No. I am not religious.
        Neither is Dr Simon Thornley, Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Population Health, Faculty of Medical and Health Sciences at Auckland University:

        “We now have much data about the fatality ratio of the virus, and it is now in the region of 0.15%, not far off seasonal influenza (0.1%). The fear created by the spread of the latest ‘delta variant’ shows a case-fatality of only 0.1% in UK data. This is even with systematic exaggeration of death reporting which we are now only just appreciating. Deaths rates from covid-19 have dropped precipitously in many hospitals.

        In perhaps the most sinister twist, we have our medical council stating that we may only discuss evidence-based information about the COVID-19 vaccine if it aligns with government issued information, implying that any other information is anti-vaccine and not acceptable. This is despite new information leading to 18 countries withdrawing the AstraZeneca vaccine in order to protect their populations. The assertion that we are being told the “Whole Truth” is starting to now feel rather hollow. The recent case-series of cases of myocarditis and the rapid increase in reports of post-vaccine death in the US demands a cautious approach.

        Btw, the average age of death from Covid in Britain is 82.
        The average life-span in Britain is 80.

        I repeat: There is an urgent debate needed but we are not getting it.

      • The last time i read a reportfrom the UK 45% of new covid cases had been fully vaccinated and 60% had had at least one jab.
        Fewer deaths and hospitalisations than before per case but that would be the trend of development of a virus as it becomes more infectious but less severe.I haven’t seen if a larger proportion of unvaccinated cases have been more severe than the vaccinated cases from the current wave of the Delta varient , have you? please quote numbers if you have them.
        On the face of it if catching the disease or not seems by the evidence from the UK to be completely unrelated to vaccination.
        D J S

  4. Chris I’m not that bright but found your article hard to comprehend. You say that “ The system change we need is not the one foreshadowed in He Puapua.” but I suggest the authors of the report you speak of have that high on their agenda. The reasoning Nikki Turner gives for the downturn sounds plausible to me.

    • The other issue is the straight copy and past of patient data (basically patients are being fabricated)

    • No, you have understood the article, NV.

      The authors of the report attacking the “racist” character of the organisation charged with vaccinating hard to reach parents and children do, indeed, show every sign of pursuing a strong co-governance agenda. Just as Dr Nikki Turner is, indeed, presenting a much broader and more nuanced socio-economic explanation for the plummeting Maori vaccination rate.

      My purpose in writing this post was to tease out some of the more obvious weaknesses of applying Critical Race Theory to an issue as critical to public wellbeing as the immunisation of infants against potential killer diseases such as Measles.

      I was also trying to demonstrate how events contemporaneous with the onset of the Covid-19 Pandemic may have exacerbated the impact of the colonisation narrative on Maori vaccination rates.

      My final point was that socialism is a far better option for improving the wellbeing of the poor and marginalised than the ethno-nationalism reflected in the He Puapua Report.

      • Thanks Chris. I get it. I’m not a socialist but see the need for socialist answers to the huge gulf between those who live comfortably and those who don’t. Fix health and housing and most of these issues subside. The ideology that is pushing “He puapua” won’t work in my opinion because even if we accepted it’s need we couldn’t afford where it will lead us. NZ can barely afford one system. I also can’t see how running parallel programs help us pull together as Maori and Pakeha any better. Let’s all be able to afford to sit in the same waiting room. Maybe even have a chat.

        • Hmm. We already have a parallel healthcare system – health insurance.

          If you want to make the case comparing eggs vs just egg on a health basis, pointing out one is more or less natural isn’t going to make that case.

          Same process as creating a separate system for the colinisation of maori btw.

          The question I’m asking is if it’s more effective / natural to pull maori into a separate system or pull maori into a representation of New Zealand had it not been for European colinization or (or something to that extent).

      • “My final point was that socialism is a far better option for improving the wellbeing of the poor and marginalised than the ethno-nationalism reflected in the He Puapua Report.”
        Correct Chris , without class analysis there is no understanding of poverty and lack of opportunity.

      • I did understand what you said and absolutely agree with your last quote. I find this all so depressing, NZ is enmeshed in a battle of nonsensical ideologies that are just going to deliver more poverty, pain and discontent before anything gets better. All while ordinary people all across NZ (many of them brown) cry out for help from someone somewhere.

      • Chris, I note that the catastrophic fall-off in vaccination rates has occurred just since last year. Blaming this on ““Cultural microaggressions, white privilege, stereotyping and prejudice.”” is wildly implausible – even were it possible to fully understand what’s meant by these terms. The drop-off has been too precipitous.

        In any event, how would “white privilege” also bring about a slight drop in pakeha babies being immunised, while the numbers of Asian babies immunised has increased? This has to be called out for the nonsense it is. I’m surprised that Counties Manukau would accept it. It’s a cowardly failure to defend itself and its staff against completely unjustified accusations.

        “…events contemporaneous with the onset of the Covid-19 Pandemic may have exacerbated the impact of the colonisation narrative on Maori vaccination rates.”

        It’s not clear why the “colonisation” narrative – which has been around for a few years – would have a sudden negative impact on immunisation rates. In my view, it’s more likely to have been the combined effects of last year’s lockdown and the concomitant impact on access to health services of this sort.

        “…socialism is a far better option for improving the wellbeing of the poor and marginalised than the ethno-nationalism reflected in the He Puapua Report.”

        I agree. People who doubt this ought to look at Cuba’s success in delivering healthcare to its citizens, US sanctions notwithstanding.

        Ethno-nationalism is an aspect of fascism, which people here need to remember.

    • “The reasoning Nikki Turner gives for the downturn sounds plausible to me.”
      And logical too and so she will be ignored at best and if there is the time and inclination vilified.
      The all the fault of colonization brigade are in the ascendancy and mad as cut snakes. Beware.

  5. We have a cunning plan, Chris!

    We’re waiting for the western vaccinations to run out! And then, we will demand Sputnik V!!

    Can’t trust the West for anything! 🙂

    • Nah, Chris comes up with all sorts of post hoc reasons to debate off topic subjects which is unrelated to a good / bad faith argument. Reason changes whenever the first reason is proven wrong.

  6. I’m no doctor, but I think I can diagnose the Manukau DHB’s problem. They’re infected with a virus called Critical Race Theory (CRT). Symptoms of CRT include:

    – Wailing and gnashing of teeth
    – Public displays of self-flagellation
    – Compulsive utterance of certain terms: “barriers”, “unconscious bias”, “microaggressions”, “decolonize”
    – Inability to think straight
    – Decision-making based on ideology rather than evidence
    – Recurring nightmares about being called “racist”

    All our institutions appear to have been colonized by CRT, and by certain other closely-related viruses that select their targets on the basis of gender or sexuality, rather than race.

    • Because maori already agreed to add mass-produced-for-human-consumption-sugar, alcohol and tobacco to there diet. The research for those pro Western diets has already been thoroughly discredited. I can walk you through it if you like?

        • That’s a sly antidote (Might try it).

          Does maori with almost no land have greater freedoms of choice than maori who has most all of the land?

          Tbh I could go either way.

          But my preference would be to have less freedom to choose if it meant living in a world with zero amounts of weapons of mass destruction.

  7. I couldn’t find the Herald article or the report but it does seem strange that “Cultural microaggressions, white privilege, stereotyping and prejudice.” (AKA it’s all whitey’s fault) should suddenly rear it’s head over the course of a year. Sounds more like a case of “well they would say that wouldn’t they”.

    There was a terrible measles outbreak in Samoa a year or so back, about unvaccinated 80 kids died. A rumour had circulated that the vaccine was dangerous after some (2?) children had died following vaccination. Turns out their deaths were due to bad medical hygiene but these things can take on a life of their own and the Samoan mums refused to have the kids vaccinated. Perhaps something like that is occurring in South Auckland.

    The doctors, Plunket, and so on, are pretty vigilant about advising parents about vaccination dates and generally follow up at the next appointment. Sounds like some slack parental responsibility to me though why it should change so much in the course of a year I don’t know. There was advice last year to avoid going to the doctor unless absolutely necessary, perhaps that message was a little overdone.

  8. Still can’t find this study or survey, I’d like to see how it was structured. How many variables were taken into account apart from race, you can’t draw any sort of conclusion from a simple single correlation, which is what they appear to have done.
    Marital status? It’s harder for a single parent to organise and attend appointments.
    Language difficulties? Lack of English skills affecting immigrant groups? Doesn’t appear to have bothered the Asian demos, but, strangely enough culture and race were assumed to have adversely affected vac. rates.
    Poverty? Another likely factor as Chris mentions. Was there analysis on economic status.
    Intelligence? Maybe those people, the non vaxxers, are just more stupid.
    I hope that I’m wrong but it sounds like goal seeking “research” that won’t help solve the problem because it hasn’t sought the truth in the first place.

    • david George, Very good points.

      This is likely an example of how ideology gets in the way blinding people to understanding issues.

    • David George: “Still can’t find this study or survey….”

      Neither can I. The Herald must have access to resources not open to the rest of us. I’m not a subscriber to it, nor do I get the paper version. It’d be good if Chris could provide a link to that story, though of course it may be behind a paywall.

      “I hope that I’m wrong but it sounds like goal seeking “research” that won’t help solve the problem because it hasn’t sought the truth in the first place.”

      My view as well. The reasons adduced for vaccination drop-offs simply cannot be right. The authors have their own theory, and they’re determined to fit the facts to their theory, regardless of plausibility.

  9. We’ll of course the manukau DHB doesn’t blame COVID. Why would they? But in reality it’s the only thing that makes sense. Much easier to blame whitey because there’ll be no push back. Those banging on about white supremacy believe too much in white supremacy. Fear is the mind killer.

  10. The reality is that Ko Awatea is staffed by fuckwits, plain and simple. It was set up as an ‘innovation unit’ with financial contributions from business, but is basically just a building used for training, and was so advanced they had 5 staff taking room bookings because, heaven forbid, you would actually use software to do it. Obviously nothing has improved.

  11. My observation is that Maori/PI culture can be a bit “island time”. I happen to be Maori. It’s frustrating as hell when you just want shit finished.

    Could this entire drop be due to having disruption in normal routines combined with the laid back nature we tend to have as a culture? Occam’s razor and all.

  12. Cultural micro aggressions etc. oh please! This sort of ideology will get in the way of really trying to understand why the drop in in vaccination rates……just like the medical science is white sumpremacy brigade, if this exists and it probably does.

    Like gender ideology there seems to be a rejection of biological science.

    My spouse is Maori and thus we have both had early access to covid vacinne at the local marae. All staff were Maori. Warm and welcoming atmosphere, well run and highly efficient. Nearly everyone receiving the vacinne Maori. I was deemed eligible as could bring the virus home to Maori spouse. I felt welcome there.

    If there is any micro aggression in the health service it will be because staff are overworked, underpaid and apparently get abused by patients and their families at times. I have noticed signs up while visiting my local hospital, which is in a middle class area, saying abuse of staff won’t be tolerated.
    All this crap about micro aggressions etc will only serve to demoralise the staff, who took years to train, got student loans, aren’t that well paid and are under a lot of stress

    • If you look at violence in its totality, vehicle death, negligence, genocide, genocide again and genocide again, it’s just white people doing the heavy lifting of learning to kill. I believe that to achieve an elementary learning environment, stress must be removed.

  13. Whenever one hears “colonisation” being blamed for poor outcomes, it is worth keeping in mind that there are countries that have never been colonised – although these make up a fairly miniscule list (one fairly hotly debated by academics, so one has to give any such list some definitional slack).

    So while not the foundation for a double-blind experiment with a robust statistical outcome, one can at least ask a quantifiable question: are the societies of countries that have never been colonised intrinsically more equal?

    I looked up the Gini coefficients for one such never-colonised list (the Gini coefficients being cobbled together from Wikipedia and other internet sources, so not the last word on the subject but rather an indicative illustration for discussion) and compared these with the UK and NZ as reference points.

    Technical definition: the Gini coefficient is a broad (and thus not perfect) indicator of the level of inequality in a country, where a score of 0% reflects a society of perfect equality, whereas a score of 100% indicates gross inequality – e.g. a handful of people owning all the wealth. The Gini coefficients in the following list also reflect the mitigating effects of taxes and transfers (benefits etc).

    Country – Gini coefficient (Year of assessment)
    China – 46.5% (2016)
    Iran – 40.8% (2017)
    Thailand – 39.4% (2010)
    Bhutan – 38.7% (2012)
    Liberia – 35.3% (2016)
    United Kingdom – 35.2% (2015) [reference point]
    Ethiopia – 35% (2015)
    New Zealand – 35% (2015) [reference point]
    South Korea- 34.1% (2015)
    Japan – 32.9% (2013)
    Nepal – 32.8% (2010)
    Mongolia – 32.7% (2018)

    It is interesting to note how in this ordered list the Gini coefficients for the UK and NZ appear roughly in the middle of a list of countries that have never been colonised. In the light of these figures, this suggests the explanatory paradigm of colonisation – as a basis for unequal outcomes – may be a case of “affirming the consequent”.

    Wikipedia explains this as follows: this is taking a true conditional statement (e.g., “If the lamp were broken, then the room would be dark,”) and invalidly inferring its converse (“The room is dark, so the lamp is broken,”) even though the converse may not be true. This arises when a consequent (“the room would be dark”) has more than one other possible antecedent (for example, “the lamp is not plugged in” or “the lamp is in working order, but is switched off”).

    So – particularly in the light of these Gini coefficients – as unequal outcomes have the potential to arise from causes lying beyond colonisation, we should be able to identify and address these with similar vigour.

    • Rob G: an excellent comment, countering ideology with facts as it does. The Gini coefficient information is illuminating.

      “…as unequal outcomes have the potential to arise from causes lying beyond colonisation, we should be able to identify and address these with similar vigour.”

      Exactly so. Attributing what ails the poorest in NZ to “colonisation” is roughly equivalent to attributing the conflict in Northern Ireland to “sectarianism”. In both cases, there’s no solution to the problem if that’s the cause. People who make claims of this sort (in Northern Ireland, it’s Unionists, because they won’t accept leaving the UK) don’t really want a solution.

      On the other hand, if the cause of such problems is attributed to politics (in all of its complexities) or economics, then there’ll be a solution.

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