Covid-19: Whānau Ora plans to take government to court over Maori under-12 data

Commissioning agency Whānau Ora said it planned to take further legal action against the Department of Health to get it to release data on Maori children who are now eligible for the Covid-19 vaccine.

The rollout of the vaccine for ages 5 to 11 began on Monday after Medsafe approved the Pfizer pediatric vaccination last month.
Photo: Getty Images Alliance

The vaccination rollout for children ages 5 to 11 began on Monday after Medsafe approved the Pfizer pediatric vaccine last month.

Whānau Ora commissioning agency chief executive John Tamihere said child vaccination was important for Maori, with one in four under the age of 12.

But he said it was frustrating that the agency again had to take legal action against the Department of Health to force it to release the data.

“How many times do we have to go to court with these guys? The ministry knew that last year when we asked them for the data, but they’re extremely reluctant to provide us with anything.”

Tamihere said if he had access to the data, he would be able to send text messages and emails to the families of Maori children eligible for the vaccine.

Then, individual Whānau Ora providers, in areas such as South Auckland, could target specific communities with large numbers of unvaccinated people.

He said the agency’s ongoing legal battle to get the Department of Health to release data on all unvaccinated Maori on the North Island had already cost him about $450,000.

And although he would seek to recover costs after last month’s High Court ruling, he said he would still have to foot part of the bill.

Whānau Ora commissioning agency chief executive John Tamihere said the Department of Health was running out of time to release data on unvaccinated Maori after losing a landmark High Court ruling on Monday.

Whānau Ora commissioning agency chief executive John Tamihere has said he will return to court in a bid to get the Department of Health to release data on Maori children eligible for vaccination against Covid-19.
Photo: Stuff / Jason Dorday

Tamihere said the whole legal battle had been a huge waste of taxpayers’ money.

The agency took legal action against the department last year for refusing to release details of all eligible North Island Maori who had not been vaccinated.

The result of a High Court hearing, published on November 1, ruled against the department, asking it to reconsider its decision to withhold the data.

But on November 5, Chief Health Officer Ashley Bloomfield contacted the agency to say the department had reviewed its earlier decision and would not release the information.

Whānau Ora’s commissioning agency then went back to court asking for the data and last month the High Court ruled in its favour.

While the Department of Health had already started sharing some data, the High Court ordered it to reconsider its decision within 72 hours. The ministry has since provided the agency with information on unvaccinated Maori aged 12 and over.

Turuki Healthcare CEO Te Puea Winiata said the High Court's ruling this week in favor of commissioning agency Whānau Ora will make it easier for it to target Maori who have not been vaccinated.

Te Puea Winiata is the chief executive of Turuki Healthcare in South Auckland and says she cannot understand why the Department of Health continues to withhold data from the Whānau Ora commissioning agency.
Photo: STUFF / Abigail Doherty

Te Puea Winiata is the Managing Director of Turuki Healthcare in South Auckland.

The primary health care provider has been busy this week with the start of the childhood vaccine rollout.

Winiata has been a strong supporter of the Whānau Ora commissioning agency in its legal action and said it was important that suppliers delivering the vaccine knew where to target.

“Any data that can tell us where there are pockets of whānau and children who haven’t been vaccinated is helpful,” she said. “So I just don’t understand: why is the Ministry of Health [is] conceal information? »

The Department of Health has been approached for comment.

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Local Democracy Reporting is a public interest information service supported by RNZ, the News Publishers’ Association and NZ On Air.

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