Second booster for Māori and Pasifika age 40 and up – Expert Reaction

The Ministry of Health has widened eligibility for second booster doses of the COVID-19 vaccine – to include Māori and Pacific people aged 40 and over from this Friday

Previously, all New Zealanders were eligible from the age of 50, as well as health, aged care and disability workers from 30, and those who meet specific clinical criteria.

The SMC asked experts to comment on the announcement. Feel free to use these comments in your reporting or follow up with the contact details provided.

Associate Professor Dianne Sika-Paotonu, Immunologist, Associate Dean (Pacific), Head of University of Otago Wellington Pacific Office, and Associate Professor, Dean’s Department, University of Otago Wellington, comments:

“It was announced today that the eligibility for a second Covid-19 booster is being lowered to 40 years of age for Māori and Pacific peoples from 18 November 2022. With Covid-19 continuing to cause disruption in Aotearoa New Zealand and cases continuing to rise, and with new variants and subvariants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in circulation, this announcement is an important step.

“It was evident from the outset that Māori and Pacific peoples were vulnerable to being disproportionately impacted and affected by COVID-19 and therefore would require prioritisation with respect to COVID-19 vaccination, prevention, testing efforts etc, with national and international data sources demonstrating these vulnerabilities. The inequitable impact of Covid-19 has been most recently demonstrated through the disproportionate representation of Covid-19 associated deaths for Māori and Pacific peoples.

“Current Covid-19 infections levels in the community are likely higher than those reflected by reported figures at this time, with hospitalisations from Covid-19 also increasing.

“Even though Covid-19 vaccination and booster levels had lifted across Aotearoa New Zealand, vigilance is still needed – especially for our vulnerable communities.

“The newer variants and subvariants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus have caused problems with higher transmissibility, and Covid-19 reinfections remain problematic.

“Simple public health measures that include vaccines and boosters, masks, isolating when sick, proper ventilation and other public health measures, remain important steps to help protect against the severe impact of Covid-19, against reinfection, and also other illnesses still circulating at this time.

“Covid-19 related deaths in Aotearoa New Zealand sadly continue to occur – with sympathies and condolences respectfully extended to all family, whānau, kāinga, aiga and friends impacted and affected.

“While issues with unequal global COVID-19 vaccine coverage, availability, accessibility and distribution persist and remain unaddressed, new variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus will continue to emerge, develop and spread.”

No conflicts of interest declared