Māori and Pacific health endangered by anti-vax church leaders

A health leader has blasted anti-vax church leaders for spreading harmful messages.

Māori and Pacific health executive director Hector Matthews made his views clear at a hui discussing Māori vaccination efforts.

The hui in Ōtautahi (Christchurch) included Māori health agencies, the Associate Health Minister Peeni Henare and other government officials on Tuesday.

Matthews said some mainstream churches were causing problems in trying to get Māori vaccinated.

“The Brian Tamaki crowd and his whānau who walk around saying God’s going to protect you are a real problem for us.”

Tamaki is sending a “very dangerous message” that could lead to people dying or ending up in intensive care units, Matthews said. People in high profile leadership positions – like anti-vax church leaders – who are spreading those messages made it “really hard” for providers to get vaccinations to those congregations.

“These are whānau that need our help,” he said

Matthews says he is “deeply concerned” rates of vaccination in Māori and Pasifika communities was being hindered by misinformation that was spread on social media and via faith-based groups.

“This is the 21st century, and we live in the age of reason and of science …You can have an opinion about lots of things, but you can’t have an opinion about this virus,” he told Stuff media.

To illustrate his point, he said if a pilot of a plane told passengers landing in Wellington seemed unsafe, they wouldn’t question the pilot’s judgement. For the same reason, people shouldn’t be questioning the expertise and advice provided by scientists and health experts.

“We should be supporting them to keep our communities safe,” he stressed.

He told the hui “we need to front up to misinformation”.

People who did not speak out when they heard untruths were implicit in misinformation continuing, he pointed out.

He suggested a gentle approach is needed with people who are victims of misinformation.

“This is not new. We have to clear the fog for a lot of whānau.”

If treated with mana, and spoken to with “dignity and humility”, most peoplem would come around to protecting their whānau, he said.

Getting everyone vaccinated isn’t about taking away people’s right to choose, he said.

People were entitled to make individual decisions, “but individual decisions when it comes to infectious disease affect all of us”.

“Let’s protect our community and protect our whakapapa,” he urged.


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News category: New Zealand.

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