Clubbing together against COVID

Published on 23 September 2021

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Events this week in the Waikato have demonstrated very clearly the danger to public health posed by the Delta variant of COVID-19. Discovery of positive cases outside Auckland and revealed on Monday raised the very real possibility that Auckland would not only remain in Level 4 lockdown, but part of the Waikato might also join it. Thankfully, Aucklanders have won a reprieve and moved to Level 3. This underlines once again the need for all people who can get vaccinated to do so as quickly as possible.

So far, just over 32 per cent of New Zealanders are fully vaccinated. That lags behind other nations. The United Kingdom, France and Italy have approximately two thirds of their populations vaccinated, while Spain has 76 per cent. In Northland, we have a population of about 193,000. Of those, over 56,000 have received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, while almost 100,000 have received their first jab. We need to do better.

I strongly support a new initiative from the Northland sporting community and Māori health providers that aims to do just that. The Take 2 for the Team initiative promises to pay participating sports clubs $10 for every vaccination shot their members and their families get. With the twin-dose Pfizer vaccination, that’s potentially $20 for every unvaccinated member of Northland’s 52 community rugby clubs, plus other sporting codes being encouraged to participate. This initiative could help get tens of thousands of Northlanders protected.

This is how it works. Eight participating Northland Māori health providers will pay local sports clubs $10 for each jab that a player or member of their whanau gets. That payment will be a portion of the Government funding health providers receive to provide vaccinations. I think this is a great initiative. Many of our people, especially in the Far North, live in small or remote communities. We know that the best way to access these hard-to-reach groups is to go to the places where they already gather. For many, that will be to attend local games, whether it be netball, league, bowls or rugby. This initiative is being led by Rugby for Life, a programme that has already done great work promoting health, education and employment opportunities to our communities by tapping into Northland sporting networks.

More important for the success of the nation’s vaccination drive will be the ability of this initiative to influence our young people, especially Māori and Pasifika. These are among the least vaccinated groups in the country and we need to do all we can to help them get protected. Sports clubs are where these groups already gather in Northland with Māori and Pasifika players accounting for 63 per cent of club rugby players aged 12 years and older.

This is an initiative where everyone wins. Māori health providers can help vaccinate hard-to-reach communities, especially our young people. Sports clubs can get a much-needed financial boost, and our communities will get the protection they need against COVID-19. Go to www.take2fortheteam.kiwi to find out more.