Friday 23 July 2021

Morbid Symptoms: Why Are Māori Vaccination Rates Plummeting?

Not Enough Shots In The Arm: The percentage of 8-month-old Māori babies in Counties Manukau receiving their primary course of immunisation on time has fallen from 85 percent in May 2020 to 68 percent in May 2021. A report prepared for the Counties Manukau DHB attributes this startling drop-off to: “Cultural microaggressions, white privilege, stereotyping and prejudice.” This is not, however, the only explanation.

MĀORI VACCINATION RATES are plummeting. The percentage of 8-month-old Māori babies in Counties Manukau receiving their primary course of immunisation on time has fallen from 85 percent in May 2020 to 68 percent in May 2021. The data for Pasifika also shows a fall-off in timely immunisation. From 93 percent of babies receiving their primary course on time in October 2020, to 82 percent in May 2021. Those New Zealanders who do not fall into the Māori, Pasifika or Asian categories – presumably the Pakeha population – also registered a slight fall-off. From around 92 percent in 2020 to just under 90 percent in 2021. Only Asian New Zealanders immunised their children in numbers above the 95 percent target rate. Fully 98 percent of their 8-month-olds are receiving their jab on time.

These statistics are grim. Clearly, something important has happened over the course of the past 18 months to discourage Māori parents from immunising their children on time. The most obvious suspect is, of course, the Covid-19 Pandemic. Its disruptive effects tend to be concentrated among the poorest sections of any given population: African-Americans in the USA; peasants and slum-dwellers in India. After the elderly and the chronically-ill, it is the poorly-paid, the poorly-housed and the poorly-educated members of society that Covid-19 strikes down.

An evaluation of the immunisation services provided to the Counties Manukau DHB does not, however, blame Covid-19 for the sudden drop-off in the Māori vaccination rate. The failure to maintain the pre-Covid percentage is, instead, attributed to: “Cultural microaggressions, white privilege, stereotyping and prejudice.” The authors of this evaluation identified “a failing and culturally incompetent system” as the culprit. “Whānau were in a constant state of stress forced to engage in a system that is inherently racist. Implicit and explicit biases, as forms of racism, were present in both whānau and staff interviews.”

The NZ Herald (whose investigative efforts are responsible for bringing the report of the Counties Manukau DHB’s innovation and improvement centre, “Ko Awatea”, to the public’s attention) suggests that its authors are firmly of the view that the racism identified can only be remedied by setting up a framework for radical cultural change within the institution:

“This should aim to decolonise dominant discourse and biases … Understanding of the journey from historical trauma to the manifestation of Māori health status today is integral for staff to increase cultural competency and responsiveness.”

One can only assume that, in this instance, the “dominant discourse and biases” in need of decolonisation is medical science itself. The obvious implication being that the whole notion of “medical science” is a white supremacist construct which arrogantly denies the possibility of any other rational system for understanding and managing the health of human beings.

The scientific method does not, however, acknowledge a place for this kind of relativistic thinking. Quite correctly, scientists warn that if we say that vaccination is just one way among many of successfully controlling potentially fatal communicable diseases, then we are effectively giving anti-vaxxers carte blanche to spread their dangerous lies far and wide. Indeed, one could argue that it would be a particularly pernicious form of racism that pretended to acknowledge the efficacy of indigenous medicines while quietly ensuring that those who placed their trust in “White Medicine” enjoyed measurably better health outcomes than those who were encouraged to believe otherwise.

One might further speculate that the attribution of all Māori misfortunes to the effects of ‘colonisation’, up to and including the transmission of colonial-era trauma (presumably genetically) through successive generations of the colonised, is almost certain to foster a deep-seated mistrust of the colonialists’ descendants. That being the case, there is scant reason for any Māori accepting this explanation to trust a single word the Pakeha Plunket nurses/vaccinators, contracted by the Counties Manukau DHB to lift the level of Māori immunisation, might say.

If so, then the consequences can only have been made more serious by the contemporaneous global upsurge in anti-racist activism driven by the Black Lives Matter movement following the murder of George Floyd by a White American police officer in May 2020. These protests intensified dramatically the conviction (among Whites as well as Blacks) that the evils of White Supremacy were both universal and irreversible. The Day of Jubilee would only come when People of Colour took their futures into their own hands. As that unfolds, they advised, the best thing Whites can do is shut up and get out of their way.

Though essentially unrelated to the anti-racist upsurge, the rapid spread of outlandish conspiracy theories which accompanied the intensification of the global Covid-19 Pandemic contributed hugely to a growing loss of faith in all forms of authority. Not only scientists were challenged, but so, too, were mainstream politicians and journalists. Social-media-generated conspiracies filled the vacuum which this widespread rejection of “the system” had created – especially among those who felt excluded from the good life so many others seemed to enjoy.

Overlay these deep-seated feelings of social inferiority and rejection with ethnicity, and you have the makings of a perfect storm.

That the very health-sector groups most likely to benefit from the Labour Government’s radical plans to restructure the New Zealand health service, might seize upon this opportunity to offer up yet more evidence of the urgent need to create a health service run by Māori, for Māori, within an aggressively decolonised co-governance structure, is hardly surprising.

Most of all, it was important for the decolonisers to keep at bay the most obvious socio-economic explanations for the sudden drop-off in Māori vaccinations. Any notion that the failure to vaccinate their kids on time might have less to do with the fact that they were brown, and a lot more to do with the fact that they were poor, had to be excluded from the explanatory framework.

Certainly, the contribution of Dr Nikki Turner, director of the Immunisation Advisory Centre, would not have been welcomed by the ‘It’s All the Fault of Colonisation’ brigade. In this respect, the final paragraph of Nicholas Jones’ Herald article is the clincher:

“There were many factors behind the drop off, Turner said, including badly stretched health services, the need for more cultural sensitivity, and increasing poverty and stress on families, who move more because of the housing crisis.”

Tragically, the interests tied up in the transformation of the New Zealand health system have little incentive to alienate the economic elites with whom they are, for the moment, collaborating. Māori-Pakeha co-governance may be possible under Capitalism, but the elimination of social and economic injustice is not. The system change we need is not the one foreshadowed in He Puapua.

It was the Italian socialist, Antonio Gramsci, who said it best:

“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”

Like plummeting Maori vaccination rates.

This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Tuesday, 20 July 2021.


AB said...

"One can only assume that, in this instance, the “dominant discourse and biases” in need of decolonisation is medical science itself. The obvious implication being that the whole notion of “medical science” is a white supremacist construct which arrogantly denies the possibility of any other rational system for understanding and managing the health of human beings."

You can assume that if you want to. But you can't "only assume" it. (I think you actually mean "assume only", but that's by the by). You could quite easily assume something different if you were so inclined. Such as that those “dominant discourse and biases” contribute to the relative economic deprivation which you correctly point out in a later paragraph is by far the most important factor in all this.

"Māori-Pakeha co-governance may be possible under Capitalism, but the elimination of social and economic injustice is not "

Correct - but you are creating a false binary where anti-racism and the desire for economic justice become opposing forces. Now I know some of this is just because you want to write a sentence that resonates nicely and has a Johnsonian (Sam not Boris) balance of parts. But reality does not conform to literary style - and it isn't that simple. It will land you in a bad place, as the comments section increasingly shows.

Jens Meder said...

Gramsci might be right - the new cannot be born - or developed - because those longing for a non (pre-) capitalist Garden of Eden existence on the available fruits of nature -

and do their best to prevent it by going backwards and do away with capitalism altogether.

Barry said...

Only a few years ago maori rates were higher so why the reduction ?

The reason almost certainly is what I call brainwashing of many Maori in the belief that colonisation and racism are the causes of everything bad for maori and anything to do with the colonisers should be avoided.
Unfortunately the proposed history programme for schools will only ensure this stupid attitude becomes engrained for decades and we will be subject to continuous distribution of millions of dollars to try to solve the unsolvable.
Whats that saying - "continuing to do the same thing expecting a different result is evidence of insanity"

David George said...

[low vax rates are] attributed to: “Cultural microaggressions, white privilege, stereotyping and prejudice.” The authors of this evaluation identified “a failing and culturally incompetent system” as the culprit. “Whānau were in a constant state of stress forced to engage in a system that is inherently racist. Implicit and explicit biases, as forms of racism, were present in both whānau and staff interviews.”

Got that? Everything is racist!
Someone's been reading CRT BS I suspect. Somehow the Asian parents are able and willing to confront the wall of white, racist hate they are subject to when they take their kids along to get their free jabs.

Now, apparently, the Maori parents are so brittle the mere sight of a cartoon virus with a moko will put them off protecting their kids.

The DHB chief executive said he was “absolutely appalled by the imagery”.“[We] are beyond offended that the most sacred part of our tinana [body] has been depicted in this manner and unreservedly apologise to all our whanau, hapu, iwi and hapori communities.” “Anything that gives Maori people a reason to screw their noses up does put in jeopardy the good work the Ministry of Health has been doing,”

Yes, "absolutely appalled' and "beyond offended" by a cartoon character. Read all about it:

David George said...

What's happening? Have the Critical Race Shamans suddenly become aware of something real?

Three essays just out on where we are and what we're seeing: the death (murder?) of liberalism.

The Faith of Systemic Racism:
"When the radicals call something “systemic” or “structural,” what they really mean is invisible or, better yet, incapable of being experienced. They are referring to the racism that must exist by dint of our many inequities. They assume a causation they cannot assume. Yes, there is disparity between racial groups. No, we cannot declare that the opinions of dead white people caused that disparity"..... "All we can do is assert, with great conviction, its existence and insist that other people believe in it, too, and threaten them with censure or exile if they believe inadequately."

"That it is their role, their mandate, to overthrow the veil of false consciousness and lead us to the light. These people, one suspects, are true believers. Their faith is real, but they do not realize it is faith. They would deny vehemently that it is anything of the kind. They believe that they simply know what the old, the dumb, the wicked cannot know. That we cannot make any meaningful distinction between Jim Crow America and America right now. That all of the so-called progress of the past half-century is a distraction and a farce. That we are trapped inside a vast web of manipulations that must be decimated, loudly and with an unbelievable fervor."

The Rise of Post-Liberal Man:
"Emerging from the great struggles of the 20th century, Liberal Man first delights in the enjoyment of basic political goods—equal rights, material betterment, and individual freedom. As the memory of those struggles withers away, however, the deeper desires of the human soul rise once more, discontented. Liberal Man begins to see boundless consumerism where he once saw prosperity, atomization where he once saw independence, spiritual emptiness where he once saw rationality, relativism where he once saw tolerance, and anarchic disorder where he once saw freedom. From this sense of dissatisfaction comes the need to transcend the constraints of liberalism. Incapable of emulating the glory of Achilles, the courage of the American Founders, and the devotion of medieval crusaders in the world he helped sustain, Liberal Man struggles against his own ideals. Devoid of great causes, monumental conflicts, and grand passions, the end of history seems to demand its own disruption. As Fukuyama aptly observes, “if men cannot struggle on behalf of a just cause because that just cause was victorious in an earlier gen­eration, then they will struggle against the just cause. They will struggle for the sake of struggle. They will struggle, for they cannot imagine living in a world without struggle.” Ultimately, the greatest threat to liberalism comes from within—and its name is generalized boredom."

What Happened To You:
"We can and must still fight and argue for what we believe in: a liberal democracy in a liberal society. This fight will not end if we just ignore it or allow ourselves to be intimidated by it, or join the tribal pile-ons. And I will not apologize for confronting this, however unpopular it might make me, just as I won’t apologize for confronting the poison and nihilism on the right. And if you really want to be on “the right side of liberalism,” you will join me."

Nick J said...

And what bad place is that AB? That sounds very censorious.

Nick J said...

This is very alarming for a variety of reasons.

First, what were we doing before that kept vaccination rates high? Historic rates suggest that worked, so what really is it that has changed?

Second, prior to recently vaccination rates indicate that Maori and Pasifika care for their childrens health in line with everybody else. So something material has happened to either slow down vaccination or to diwcourage it. What was that cause?

I would be extremely disturbed if due to reaction to a black man dying in America that some malign parties in Aotearoa persuaded local people that they were being disadvantaged by "colonialist medicine" to the extent that they ceased vaccination rates. I would however discount that as I doubt Maori and Pasifika would put ideology before their childrens health, that really insults their intelligence, and they are not stupid.

That raises the other disturbing issue: that by engaging with or allowing this type of report any credence we undermine collective health and delivery. Health deliverers dont have time for this politicised bullshit. When someone comes through the door I very much doubt that they see Pakeha or Maori, they see a patient with a medical need. Full stop.

This inverse racism needs to be called out for the dangerous malevolence it is before it really affects health delivery and unvaccinated children suffer. Meanwhile back to point one. Find out the real reason and address it.

Shane McDowall said...

Poor white man. Those evil Africans used to travel to Europe, seize white slaves and take them in ships to work on their Caribbean sugar islands.

Poor white man, those evil Injuns travelled to Europe and brought with them lethal diseases decimating the white population.

Poor white man, those evil Chinese travelled to Europe to sell opium to white people - but especially white women. When white man told the Chinese what to do their opium the Chinese started a war to force them to buy opium.

What planet do you live on David George? What colour is the sky in your world?

Face facts, Europeans have been a global scourge starting in 1492. But you and your kind live in an alternative universe where whitey is oppressed and "people of colour" are the oppressors.

Whitey holds all the cards. And whitedy shifts the goal posts at whim.

A civilisation that gave the world Auschwitz and the Gulag is in no position to judge other cultures.

Strange how Beethoven and Tolstoy are part of European civilisation, but Hitler and Stalin are not.

Bad news Mr George: whiteys' shit DOES stink.

Tom Hunter said...

A civilisation that gave the world Auschwitz and the Gulag is in no position to judge other cultures.

Of course we are. We're the civilisation that also destroyed those things.

Besides that, other civilisations are quite happy to judge our apparently, despite vast amounts of shit in their past. They'll judge us, we'll judge them and there will be arguments about the best way forward.

European-based civilisation has won most of those philosophical arguments to date because they got to test out many of them and stuck with what worked. All the economic, military and other factors flowed from that.

Tom Hunter said...

Whānau were in a constant state of stress forced to engage in a system that is inherently racist. Implicit and explicit biases, as forms of racism, were present in both whānau and staff interviews.”

Ok, for the sake of argument, let's say that's true.

I've grown up listening to endless paens from the Left about how we're a less racist nation than we were in the past, which is true.

So how is it that our more racist past produced better figures for Maori immunisation than our less racist present?

Nick J said...

Shane, I really wish I could turn the clock back for you. Of course everything would then smell of roses.

David George said...

That's quite the racist tirade there Shane, typically misinformed hatred mostly.

The North African pirates (from The Barbary Coast) wrecked havoc on the people of Europe for centuries and were only finally stopped well into the 19th century by the British and French navies. Defenceless coastal communities, entire coastlines were depopulated in the Slavic countries (the origin of the word slave) Western Mediterranean, Britain and right up the North sea as far as Iceland. Millions of slaves were taken and the survivors (elderly, children and the injured mostly) faced a bleak future; unable to work the land and fishing boats. The women sold into the sex slave trade and the men castrated and worked to death.

There's no race or culture that hasn't suffered unreasonably or that doesn't have a shameful past. I'll tell you about some of family's history, what they endured.

David George said...

Nana George was born in 1898, here's the story of her people, as she and my father told it to me. Her grandparents and great grandparents were Gaelic speaking Scottish highland crofters leading a simple but hardly idyllic life in that tough environment and were victims of the Highland clearances. They were evicted, their homes bunt out, often with the elderly and infirm inside, to make way for grazing sheep to feed the growing cities with meat and wool for the textile industry. It has been called, not unreasonably, a genocide.

The survivors made their way to the coast with what they could carry and regrouped and found what work was available. Fishing and basic labouring work mostly. The opportunity arose to head for a new life and work in Eastern Canada, Nova Scotia specifically where there was work to be found in the cod fishing and forestry industries and, probably more importantly, the opportunity to acquire land and the building of a proper community.

Things were tough and, faced with famine and the harsh climate, when news came of better prospects in Australia or New Zealand the people got together, over a thousand of them, and under the guidance of their remarkable leader the Reverend Norman McLeod resolved to migrate. They had little money but a ton of courage, faith and commitment. They would build and man their own ships and sail them to the other side of the world. That is what they did.

The five ships (of around 200 tons) were, with basic tools and a lot of hard labour, duly built. They set off in the 1850's. Down the Atlantic, Cape Verde Islands, Cape Town, Melbourne and on to New Zealand where they were sold and land bought at Waipu, Northland from the proceeds. Perversely, perhaps, another of my ancestors, Hongi Hika, had been through a few decades previously and murderously depopulated the area. The people built their homes, farms and churches, they kept their faith and familial connections and commitments. They needed to; adversity was always just around the corner. As a young women my Grandmother lost her entire family, parents and brothers and sisters to influenza and pneumonia.

There is now a Museum in honour of those people at Waipu and their migration, one of the most remarkable by a simple rural people in the history of humanity. It is also perhaps, a reminder, something worth reflecting on: the background and the compelling motivations for folk to spread out, to colonise and perhaps to understand, with due humility, what they went through.

Here is a wee clip telling a little of the tale.

Shane McDowall said...

Great story Dave. I can tell you exactly the same story about my Scottish ancestors. A poor fisherman from a village called Tongue, and his equally poor wife from Inverness. Most New Zealanders with 19th century European heritage have pretty much the same story.

Nothing you have written tells me anything I did not already know. You might be astonished at breadth and depth of my general knowledge.

I am well aware that arseholes come in all colours, both sexes and both genders.
Europeans are hardly alone in having a long history of brutality.

What makes Europeans different from all other arseholes is the fact that they were the first GLOBAL plague.

At primary school a teacher made it clear to me that the wrong doing of others does not excuse my wrong doing. This applies to nations too. The European trans-Atlantic slave trade is not made just because Arab Muslims raided Europe for slaves.

So you descend from Hongi Hika. That is fascinating. Which one of his wives do you descend from? I ask because I have met a lot of Pakeha with remote Maori ancestry who claim descent from rangatira and ariki. They never seem to descend from a captive slave girl and the cabin boy.

David George said...

Thank you Shane, I'm not in anyway making excuses for slavery but it's worth remembering that it existed (and still exists in some benighted places) among all peoples at times. The Atlantic slave trade was stopped, at great cost over sixty years by the British (and later with America) blockade. The Christian recognition of the evils of slavery and it's outlawing is something to be revered along with it's precursor; the recognition of the sanctity of the sovereign individual itself.

My Hongi Hika lineage is through his daughter Hinewhare, (AKA Ruiha Wells) she married captain William Wells, an American whaler. The Wells family that still live in Russell and the Daltons from Kaikohe share the same connection. William and Hinewhare's first chid Anne - later Anne Dalton was my great-great-grandmother. My maternal great grandfather was Ezra Wilkinson, my mother one of the Kaikohe Wilkinsons. Ezra was married to Anne's daughter Luisa. Luisa had several marriages so also known as Louisa Stephenson. My grandfather was Marshall Wilkinson, son of Louisa.

David George said...

Shane, you need to step back and think about where you're going with this. When you start dehumanising and demonising a whole group of people as a plague you've gone too far.
What's next? Vermin, cockroaches? I recall a certain Austrian chap last century spewing something similar.

I can understand your attraction to Critical Race Theory; nothing like having your hate dressed up and justified as a (superficially) presentable theory. That's been done before as well with the crank eugenics theories and so on. The cultivation of pathological beliefs such as yours are the reason CRT and it's progeny, like the corrupted history curriculum, should have no place in our schools, or public life generally come to that..

Shane McDowall said...

David, I do not believe in Critical Race Theory. Can you point to one of my previous posts where I even hinted that I believe in this bullshit?

And spare me your portentous warning about a certain Austrian chap.

What Europeans did to everyone else since about 1492 is a matter of record. Plague is not too harsh a word. Perhaps we should call what they did a holocaust (small 'h'). In fact a string of holocausts from the Canary Islands, to Siberia, to the Caribbean, to New Zealand and Easter Island.

Everywhere the Europeans went they brought death and misery to the peoples they encountered. They, and their modern day descendants call it "spreading civilisation".

The British Government abolished slavery in the 1830s but British private enterprise led the way in "blackbirding". From the Solomon Islands to Easter Island, islands were raided to provide slave labour for sugar plantations, guano mining and a host of other labour intensive British owned industries.

Talk about turning the truth on its head.

And you did not answer my question: Which one of Hongi's wives to you descend from? I am genuinely curious.

David George said...

Tangiwhare was Hinewhare's mother, my 4x great grandmother.