Covid 19 Delta outbreak: Got ya Dot – Rangatahi Māori driving Auckland vaccination evolution

Musician Raniera Blake jokingly admits he doesn’t like people telling him what to do – even when it comes to vaccination against Covid-19.

Formerly unfazed about getting his vaccine, the 26-year-old’s unease developed as vaccination status became a prerequisite in his social circle.

“I had mates telling me, ‘You can’t go and see my mate’s baby because you’re unvaccinated’, so for that I was like, ‘I’m not going to get vaccinated then because you’re forcing me to do it’.”

Now, Blake (Ngāi Tūhoe, Ngāti Porou, Te Arawa, Te Whānau ā Apanui) is embracing vaccination – partly for his whānau and to travel – but also thanks to a rangatahi-led vaccination drive this weekend in Tāmaki Makaurau, which aims to enhance how we speak about vaccination.

“Got ya Dot” is a campaign designed by rangatahi Māori to appeal to the 12-34 age bracket and will come to a head this weekend with five youth-tailored vaccination centres in operation across the region.

Chief among them is Eden Park which will be open between 12-8pm on Saturday and Sunday. Two schools, as well as two kura kaupapa, are also on board.

It’s timing – three weeks after Super Saturday – is intentional, as organisers hope to see the 9500 Aucklanders who came out last time for their first dose, to get their second.

A key aspect of the Got ya Dot campaign has been replacing the usual kōrero tied to vaccination such as “jab” and “shot” with dot, and it’s Māori translation – ira.

For weeks, the ira/dot message has been spread across social media in the hope it will encourage more unvaccinated whānau to get “dotted”.

According to primary care enrolment data, there are 181,563 Aucklanders still to get their ira – 30,935 are Māori and will predominately be in younger age groups.

Blake, a member of the renowned Maimoa Music group, said some friends had questioned his decision to get dotted but by trusting his fellow rangatahi, the singer was confident in his decision.

“I like that it’s by Māori and for Māori and I like that it’s rangatahi [who are] pushing it and it’s all familiar faces,” he said.

“These people, they’re my mates and I trust these people and I know that they trust in me.”

Working towards a new album and hopefully a summer of gigs, Blake didn’t want to tell people what to do but cited his desire to reconnect with whānau as his primary motivation.

“To be honest, I don’t dig deep into research about the vaccine, but I’m just getting it for my whānau and so I can get out for summer … just to be free again.”

One of the sites open this weekend is at Te Kura Kaupapa Māori ā-rohe o Māngere on Bader Drive.

Students Kauri Tumai (Ngāpuhi, Waikato Tainui) and Jezaray Pereiha-Tipene (Ngāti Kahu) have received both dots.

Both 15 years old, the pair said hesitant friends were often concerned about theories they’d heard about the vaccine.

But after being designed by rangatahi, they agreed the campaign would be more appealing to their peers.

“[Rangatahi] are pretty persuasive in our talking so I think it’s a pretty good idea,” Tumai said.

Principal Lucy Te Moana (Ngāi Tūhoe) had already planned the kura’s own vaccination drive on the same weekend when Got ya Dot organiser and ex-pupil Pere Wihongi asked if they’d like to be involved.

Te Moana said many of her students had been encouraged by their whānau to get dotted in recent months.

“I think some of them were being dragged by the ear to go and do it, whether they liked it or not,” she said with a laugh.

The kura, which teaches from Year 0-13, has opted to cancel external exams in an effort to mitigate risk for the students, who normally sit their exams at the nearby Māngere College.

Excited by the prospect of this weekend’s event, Te Moana said whānau who might be nervous would be supported right through the process.

“Nau mai haere mai, we have people onsite to talk to those people who are still feeling a bit afraid of getting this dot and maybe ease them into, later on, getting the dot.”

The campaign was the result of incredible co-operation between Tāmaki iwi, kapa haka, hauora Māori providers, corporate partners, kura tuarua and whare wānanga.

One of many vital cogs in the campaign machine has been Ngāti Whātua Orākei whia maia Rangimarie Hunia.

The iwi provider has been heavily involved in vaccination rollout through many different avenues.

However, as young Māori became the most impacted by the Delta outbreak, Hunia and others recognised more could be done to engage that population.

“We’re not speaking to them in a language that makes sense to them.”

The decision to choose “ira” as the word to base the campaign on also reflected why many Māori were getting the dot – for their whānau.

“The idea is, yes to get your dot, but also the idea that ira atua, ira tangata, ira whānau is about protecting more than yourself and that links to the idea of protecting your family, loved ones and community.”

Acknowledging the barriers Māori faced on their vaccination journey, Hunia had a strong belief rangatahi would recognise their chance to free Tāmaki Makaurau from lockdown and get their ira/dot.

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