Kia ora whanau
We are all experiencing interesting times, with people from all over the world having their lives turned upside down, many much more so than us here in Aotearoa. For over a year, we have been able to forget that the entire planet has been in the grips of a pandemic with over 4,500,000 people having lost their lives. We are learning more and more about this new virus as time progresses and finding new ways to battle and overcome it.
Māori are particularly at risk of catching, being hospitalised and dying from COVID. At this time Māori have to be hyper vigilant and look after one another. Apart from dying from COVID, we have become aware of other conditions, such as long-COVID syndrome which at least 10% who get COVID will suffer from, with ongoing symptoms for greater than 3 months. Exactly how long long-COVID will last is unknown, but we know that those that have more severe disease are more likely to get it. We are also learning about children too young to be vaccinated, developing multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) which can lead to life threatening heart and other organ damage in children, with up to 1/3rd of these having lasting and possibly permanent ongoing difficulty.
At this time, Māori, need to stand up and protect their own whanau, hapu and iwi. They need to protect their vulnerable, the kuia and kaumatua who have underlying medical conditions, but also our tamariki who are too young to be vaccinated, and are at risk.
To do this, we must not think of just ourselves, but think of our communities and those that are less fortunate than us. All those that are eligible to be vaccinated need to get vaccinated. Not just to potentially save your own life, but to save others who for various reasons cannot be vaccinated.
In many countries around the world that have high levels of vaccination and have been loosening restrictions, there are still many people dying from COVID. These are the unvaccinated. While it is a choice for some individuals, that they would rather take the risk and die from COVID than have the vaccine, many others who are not able to take the vaccine are dying because those that were eligible have refused to do so.
In modern society where information on any topic is readily available at the end of a device, we must be very aware of how our search engines work. When we are looking up topics on our devices, your device's search engine is designed to put in front of you anything that it feels you are more likely to read. If you spend time looking at anti-vaxx data, by default your search engine will continue to push anti-vaxx data until that is all you will see. There is a significant amount of misinformation available, some suggest there is more misinformation than true information. True information is studied, verified, tested and retested before we claim it as accurate. Misinformation is just written down on any blog post or social media platform.
Therefore, it is important to trust in true and accurate information, trust the medical profession, trust in the New Zealand Medical Council and those of us who have dedicated our lives to not only deciphering what is true and accurate medical information, but also to delivering that to the people. There will always be dissenters, doctors that disagree, just like there will always be scientists who don’t believe in climate change, or doctors who don’t believe smoking causes cancer, or people who believe the earth is flat. But will always be the minority because they are wrong.
To this end, as a Ngāti Kahu, and as a doctor, I implore you, to reject the misinformation that is out there about the COVID vaccine and trust in us, those that have given our lives to help you, the people of Aotearoa, and stand up to protect your own whanau, hapu and iwi and get vaccinated. Please.
Dr John Mutu-Grigg, BHB, MBChB, FRACS
Ngāti Kahu, Te Rarawa
Chair of the Māori Health Advisory Committee – Royal Australasian College of Surgeons
Council Member for Māori - New Zealand Orthopaedic Association