New Zealand cannot abandon its COVID elimination strategy while Māori and Pasifika vaccination rates are too low

New Zealand cannot Auckland’s move to alert level 3 has also triggered speculation about whether the national COVID-19 elimination strategy has failed or is even being abandoned. While the government denies it, others clearly believe it is at least a possibility.

The uncertainty is troubling The alternative, however, is worse.

In 1918, the mortality rate among Māori from the influenza pandemic was eight times that of Europeans. The avoidable introduction of influenza to Samoa from Aotearoa resulted in the deaths of about 22% of the population.

This is premature and likely to expose vulnerable members of our communities to the disease. Abandoning the elimination strategy while vaccine coverage rates remain low among the most vulnerable people would be reckless and irresponsible. In short, more Māori and Pasifika people would Australian health die.

Least worst options

Of course, it has come with a price. In particular, the restrictions have had a major impact on small businesses and personal incomes, student life and learning, and well-being in general. Many families have needed additional food parcels and social support, and there are reports of an increasing incidence of family harm.


The latest Delta outbreak has also seen the longest level 4 lockdown in Auckland, with at least two further weeks at level 3, and there is no doubt many people are struggling to cope with the restrictions. The “long tail” of infections will test everyone further.


Various studies have confirmed this, but we also must acknowledge why — entrenched socioeconomic disadvantage, overcrowded housing and higher prevalence of underlying health conditions.


Lowest vaccination rates, highest risk

Furthermore, the national vaccination rollout has again shown up the chronic entrenched inequities in the health system.


Left unchecked, COVID-19 disproportionately affects minority communities and the most vulnerable. “Living with the virus” effectively means some people dying with it. We know who many of them would be.

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