Misinformation from national leaders about Covid-19 vaccinations for children needs to be shut down to ensure parents make the best decisions for their tamariki, a Māori advocate says.
National Māori Authority chair Matthew Tukaki has called out a National Party MP for bringing an air of authenticity to anti-lockdown protests, saying National Party leader Christopher Luxon needed to pull her in line.
The post was deleted after it was “pointed out” it could be viewed as anti-vaccination, she said in a follow-up post.
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“I am vaccinated, and like the rest of the National Party I strongly support vaccination for our whānau and communities.”
However, Tukaki said Hipango’s post and presence at the protest had fuelled anti-vaccination sentiments and promoted misinformation among Māori.
Tukaki said work needed to be done to quash misinformation online, including the narrative that Covid-19 vaccines for children will be mandatory. Everyone needed to be on the same page, including every MP in Parliament, he said.
“Let’s face it, the errant National MP has had multiple opportunities, yet she sneaks away to this protest and that knowing full well her presence gives licence to those behind them – often peddling misinformation and lies.”
Tamariki aged 5 to 11 years old will be eligible to receive their first vaccination from January 17, with Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins saying in late December that it was an opportunity to target resources to Māori, those who were undecided about the vaccine and delivery to people living in remote areas.
But Tukaki said he was concerned social media posts that appear to be supporting anti-vaccination sentiments would sway parents away from vaccinating their children.
“We have seen the impact of the virus on children in Europe and the USA, we are seeing the unfolding mess that is Australia, so acting now will be imperative – and that includes being blunt about some of the messaging – for example: it is a lie that vaccinations for children are being mandated. They are not.”
Campaigns to support parents making the decision to vaccinate their children needed to be under way with accurate, reliable information to help parents understand the health impacts on children, Tukaki said.
“Informed parents create informed consent and that is what we need to aim for. To all of those irresponsible idiots out there who are saying they are going to attack vaccination centres – exactly where will you be if New Zealand children start losing their lives? I bet your bottom dollar they will move on to the next campaign slogan. Campaign slogans do not save lives – action does.”
Tukaki also had a message for those targeting retail and hospitality staff and those small businesses openly flouting the rules:
“Grow up and stop acting as if you are some sort of heroes. You’re not heroes. People on our front lines including hospitality and retail, our health workforce and emergency services are the heroes. They have kept Aotearoa ticking. And for those in Te Ao Maori still spreading misinformation – cut it out.”