PM Jacinda Ardern moves covid media conference after conspiracy heckling

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NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in Northland
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Māori-Crown Relations Minister Kelvin Davis in Northland today. Image: RNZ screenshot APR

RNZ News

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says the New Zealand government wants to lift vaccination rates and wants to remove anything that is a barrier to getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

Ardern and Māori-Crown Relations Minister Kelvin Davis, who is also the MP for Te Tai Tokerau, are in Northland viewing the rollout of vaccinations.

Ardern spoke to media this afternoon until she was continuously interrupted by a conspiracy theorist in the crowd. She then decided to shut down and move the conference.

In other developments today:

Low vax rates not government’s fault
In today’s media conference, Ardern said the low vaccination rates in Northland were not a failure of the government.

She said the government wanted to lift vaccination rates, and wanted to remove anything that was a barrier to getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

“I asked one provider, what are you hearing when you’re out vaccinating … they described it as covid not necessarily feeling close enough to the community yet, that even when there have been cases in Northland it might be seen as a valley over, not at the front door,” she said.

“We will do everything we can to keep it isolated, but we need everyone to be vaccinated.”

She said decisions were made based on public health advice.

Watch the media conference:

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Māori-Crown Relations Minister Kelvin Davis speak about vaccination in Northland. Video: RNZ News

In the conference, Ardern said the low vaccination rates in Northland are not a failure of the government.

She said the government wants to lift vaccination rates, and wants to remove anything that is a barrier to getting as many people vaccinated as quickly as possible.

“I asked one provider, what are you hearing when you’re out vaccinating … they described it as Covid not necessarily feeling close enough to the community yet, that even when there have been cases in Northland it might be seen as a valley over, not at the front door.”

“We will do everything we can to keep it isolated, but we need everyone to be vaccinated.”

She said decisions were made based on public health advice.

She would rather people were getting vaccinated regardless of alert level, because it was the right thing to do, she said.

Asked about the ruling ordering the ministry of health to reconsider its stance of withholding Māori vaccination data on the basis of privacy, Ardern said it was an issue about what data had been available or able to be shared, and she would allow the health team to work through that.

Raise concerns with professionals
She said people should be able to raise concerns about the vaccine, and if they had questions or concerns they should be able to come forward to talk to health professionals, or someone they trusted, to make the right decision.

She said the number of people who “would be described as … anti-vaccination” was relatively small in New Zealand. She said she absolutely believed the 90 percent double vaccinated rate the government was aiming for could be achieved.

She said young people in particular could be exposed to misinformation online, so there was more work ahead.

Ardern said despite best efforts, cases had come out of Auckland “and so we do need people to be vaccinated”.

Minister Davis said Te Tai Tokerau had not been forgotten.

“I have weekly meetings with all iwi leaders, so there’s a lot of work going into protecting our people, and as we’ve said there’s extra $4m going into the north today. We’re doing everything we can to make sure that our people are protected and people get vaccinated.”

Ardern said the approach from the government had been to ask Māori providers to focus on older kaumātua and kuia, and to take a whānau-based approach.

‘They think they’re smarter than the virus’
Davis was asked about protesters.

“That’s the first protest I’ve seen, there were two people. Obviously, they think they’re smarter than the virus… I don’t think it helps what we’re trying to do here, to protect whānau, to protect whakapapa.

“And to have people think that what’s going on is not reality? I think that they’re just living in a strange world.

“Our focus is on making sure that as many people as possible get vaccinated to protect their whānau, to protect their whakapapa, and that sort of stuff just doesn’t help at all.”

Ardern said misinformation existed everywhere but it was a minority voice.

Northland is one of the lowest-performing regions for vaccinations, with just 64 percent of the region fully vaccinated – second-last, only ahead of Tairāwhiti.

It is also the region that needs the largest number of first doses to reach 90 percent of the eligible population, with more than 17,000 doses required to reach that milestone.

The government’s proposed traffic light system would see restrictions across New Zealand reduced, and lockdowns ended, once every DHB in the country reaches 90 percent double dosed.

Northland also has a high percentage Māori population. Māori have accounted for about 40 to 50 percent of cases in the delta outbreak in recent weeks, and have lower vaccination rates than the rest of the population.

The government this morning announced the first round of funding for initiatives to boost Māori vaccination rates around the country, allocating $23.3 million from the $120m fund announced just over a week ago.

  • The New Zealand Herald named the heckler who claimed to be a journalist as American Shane Chafin, a trained pharmacist in the US. Chafin claimed to be working for a little-known website purporting to be a “facts and evidence-based platform … covering the stories that many mainstream media outlets will not.”

This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.

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