MIHI awarded Ministry grant to assess Māori COVID-19 vaccine clinic work

A mobile vaccination clinic initiative to improve Māori rates of protection from COVID-19 in Canterbury has been awarded a major Te Whatu Ora grant to assess its future viability.

Māori/Indigenous Health Innovation staff

Dr Maira Patu from the University of Otago, Christchurch’s, Department of Māori Indigenous Health Innovation (MIHI) is one of 23 research project recipients from across Aotearoa New Zealand (6 from the University of Otago*) selected for the Te Whatu Ora COVID-19 Research Fund grant, aimed at examining the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and identifying future potential pandemic responses.

The $400,000 Grant will allow Dr Patu and her team to undertake an assessment of how effective the kaupapa Māori MIHI COVID-19 Mobile Vaccine Clinics were, and whether the same approach could be useful for future vaccine rollouts.

Dr Patu says the 12-month study will contribute to Māori health knowledge, informing future national immunisation programme responses in Aotearoa while building on international evidence of Indigenous experiences in response to the Covid-19 global pandemic.

“It will allow us to identify the challenges our clinical team experienced and the strategies we used to address them, as well as examining the unresolved barriers for Māori, providing invaluable information to inform the future of the National Immunisation Programme.

“The strength of the research design ensures all stakeholder voices will be captured, including the whānau using our services, our partner organisations and MIHI mobile staff.”

The MIHI Mobile COVID-19 Vaccination Team visited marae, kura kaupapa, social housing, Christchurch Men’s prison, homeless communities and church organisations around the Te Whatu Ora Waitaha region, including Kaikoura (Takahanga Marae), Hokitika (Arahura Marae), Ashburton (LDS church), and Koukourarata (Banks Peninsula).

Thirty-three staff took part in the MIHI clinics, either through secondment from Te Whatu Ora Canterbury Waitaha or employed directly by MIHI/The University of Otago, dispensing nearly 9000 COVID-19 vaccines in total. The team also rolled out MMR and influenza vaccinations where appropriate before the programme was wound up in late July.

Dr Patu says the MIHI clinics were specifically and strategically designed to meet the needs of Māori.

“As COVID-19 unfolded in Aotearoa, it was well documented nationally by various Māori roopu that the initial COVID-19 response placed Māori and Pasifika at increased risk due to the blanket approach regarding vaccinations. In response, MIHI combined clinical and academic skill sets to design a unique kaupapa Māori approach to the COVID-19 vaccination roll-out. This approach evolved out of community requests for an initiative that supported local Māori health providers, as well as meeting the needs of Mana Whenua and Ngā Mataa Waka.”

Dr Patu says the MIHI team is explicitly committed to transforming the results from this research project into positive action for hauora Māori.

“It’s anticipated Māori health gains will evolve from the translation of our findings in order to effect change in all tiers of the immunisation programme, from clinical factors such as cultural safety for Māori staff and consumers, structural factors related to service delivery and access, as well as organisational factors regarding policy and funding, to better achieve health equity for Māori.”