Be a doer! KARAWHIUA National campaign encourages Māori uptake of COVID-19 vaccine

Published on Saturday, 8 May 2021

In a national COVID-19 vaccination campaign launched on Mother’s Day, Ruthie a young mother who contracted the virus while she was hapū encourages whānau to inform themselves about the COVID-19 vaccine.

Led by Te Puni Kōkiri, the targeted national Māori campaign “Be a doer! KARAWHIUA” supports other vaccination campaigns nationwide.

Seven months pregnant at the time, Ruthie was in managed isolation for more than a month in September last year. She contracted COVID pneumonia, a severe complication of COVID-19, and has since given birth to a healthy baby girl she named Hope.

Ruthie agreed to front the campaign because she does not want other whānau to go through the “terrifying” experience she had, especially spending time in Middlemore Hospital unable to breath without oxygen.

“If there’s a way that can be prevented I would 100% take it. It will keep our whānau safe. Like vaccinations for our children, it is a personal choice for our community and our whānau but for me and mine, we’ll do it,” Ruthie says.

“We definitely live our lives very differently now. We’re more grateful for the things we have, like air in our lungs and being able to walk and live freely, enjoy our time with our children. Just the freedom of living really.”

Māori Development Minister, Willie Jackson, praised Ruthie for sharing her personal story.

“It takes a lot of courage to talk openly about contracting COVID-19 given most of us in Aotearoa haven’t felt the devastating impact it’s had overseas.

“We’ve done an exceptional job of protecting our whānau and communities from COVID-19. It’s now up to all of us to ensure we go that extra step and get vaccinated.”

 “Be a doer! KARAWHIUA” focuses on Māori taking action to look after their health and wellbeing by getting informed and making a positive decision about the COVID-19 vaccine. Karawhiua means “Give it heaps! Go for it!”.

Research conducted by the Ministry of Health in February showed that 41% of Māori needed more information on the vaccine, and 30% did not understand the vaccine would be free. Surveys consistently show Māori are less likely to get the COVID-19 vaccine than non-Māori.

The first stage of the 7-month campaign aims to build confidence and understanding by directing Māori to a website and kanohi ki te kanohi sources where they can explore trusted information. It builds on the pride Māori have in the way we have protected our communities from COVID-19.

The campaign draws on medical information from the Ministry of Health and features Dr Mataroria Lyndon, a Northland public health doctor and senior lecturer at the University of Auckland, who has spoken to a wide range of Māori across Aotearoa about the COVID-19 vaccine.

“Many are at the stage of wanting to know more about the vaccine now that it’s being rolled out. Common questions are about the vaccine’s effectiveness and safety, side-effects, content and development. We want to encourage uptake by getting trusted information out into the community in a way that will resonate with Māori,” he says.

Māori and iwi communication specialists have helped inform the campaign with Te Hiringa Hauora | Health Promotion Agency delivering the digital components.

TV commercials began screening on Mother’s Day and will run alongside a dedicated website called


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