Sunday, October 17, 2021

Saturday really was pretty super

Yesterday was “Super Saturday” in New Zealand, a major drive to increase the country’s rates for Covid vaccinations. It went well, and even though there’s still a long way to go, there’s hope that we might actually get there.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had set a Super Saturday goal of 100,000 jabs, and in the end there were a record 130,002 doses given, of which 39,025 were first doses and 90,977 were second doses. It was by far the biggest day for vaccinations since the campaign began earlier this year, and bigger than any single day since the current outbreak began, a period in which we’ve already seen several record-breaking days for vaccinations.

Because Auckland has been the starting point for all our outbreaks after the original one last year, it’s vital that they get to 90% vaccination to help protect the rest of New Zealand. Auckland had their own record-breaking day yesterday, with 8,957 people getting their first doses and 31,686 people receiving their second doses. That means that 89% of the eligible population in Auckland has been vaccinated with at least 1 dose. This is great progress, and it now seems inevitable that Auckland will hit, and hopefully surpass, 90% fully vaccinated.

Yesterday was a record day for Māori people, too: 10,941 got their first doses and 10,874 got their second. However, Māori lag far behind every other group when vaccinations per 1000 people are compared, ranking last among the major ethnic groups. The data hasn’t yet been updated with Saturday's data, but it seems unlikely to have changed dramatically.

There are many reasons why Māori remain unvaccinated in such large numbers, however, what the Super Saturday event showed was that engaging with them in a culturally-aware manner, using Māori health and community agencies, can pay big dividends (the same is true for Pacific communities, of course). As the government has said repeatedly, no one will be left behind in the race to the 90% mark. Super Saturday showed an important part of the way forward.

Yesterday, too, there was an 8-hour live event broadcast on TV and streamed over the Internet. Vaxathon, as it was called, was part of the strategy to energise New Zealanders—especially young people generally and Māori and Pacific peoples—to get the jab. An historical note, the broadcast was a nod to the former Telethon, a televised event raising funds for charities and held in various years from the mid-1970s through to into the 1990s (and one in 2009). The actual Telethon programme faded away when the Lotto New Zealand was introduced in the last 1980s, because 100% of the net proceeds from the NZ Lotteries Commission go to various community and charitable organisations.

Stuff columnist Allison Mau summed up my thoughts about the day, including about Vaxathon, in her column today, ”'You could say this has shifted the dial': How Super Saturday was won”. I watched a lot of the broadcast (though not all of it), and was struck by the emphasis on Māori, from the frequent use of the language through to references to Māori culture, and, like Mau, I knew that was no accident. I can imagine the deep-sighing grumps typing madly in protest about all that as they spewed their comments anywhere that might let them, but they’re an angry (and largely older and white) minority. I can imagine it, but certainly haven't seen it—I mean, seriously, who reads the comments sections of major news sites anymore? Besides, I really don’t care what they think about the broadcast (Special note to such deep-sighing grumps: If you don’t like a broadcast, turn the bloody channel—or even turn the TV off!—and leave everyone else alone).

Yesterday was a pretty super Saturday, and it will hopefully energise people to make the final push to get the entire country past the 90% vaccination rate. Doing so is vital for us all.

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