Northland’s rugby community is banding together with eight Māori health providers and other sporting codes to boost the uptake of COVID-19 vaccinations across the region. It is launching today (Wednesday 22 September) an initiative that will see local sporting clubs earn money by encouraging vaccinations among players and their families, particularly those living in hard-to-reach Māori or Pasifika communities.
The region’s rugby bosses and Māori health providers want Northland to be the first province to have at least 90 percent of its population fully vaccinated by Christmas.
The name of the initiative is ‘Take 2 for The Team’, a reference to the fact that people must be vaccinated twice. It is being led by Rugby for Life, a programme that uses the networks and influence of the Northland Rugby Union and the Northland rugby community to create health, education and employment opportunities for communities in all corners of the region.
Thirty of Northland’s 35 community rugby clubs and two schools, Kerikeri High School and Dargaville High School, are participating in the vaccinations initiative so far. They will earn $10 per vaccination for every person who they can encourage to be vaccinated. Clubs stand to earn $20 per person for the full course of two Pfizer jabs.
Other sports may also be involved. Rugby for Life is in early discussions with Northland Hockey, Northland Rugby League and TaiTokerau Rugby League. Clubs representing these sports will also earn $10 for each member they encourage to be vaccinated, and $20 per person for the full course of vaccinations.
Māori health providers are paid by the government for all vaccinations they administer. The eight providers participating in the ‘Take 2 for The Team’ initiative have chosen to pass some of that payment on to participating sporting clubs for their role in encouraging members and their whanau and friends to be vaccinated. They are [subs: in alphabetical order] Hokianga Health, Ngāti Hine Health Trust, Te Ha Oranga, Te Hau Awhiowhio o Otangarei Trust, Te Hauora o Ngapuhi, Te Hiku Hauora, Te Runanga o Whaingaroa and Whakawhiti Ora Pai.
Participating rugby clubs will use the money raised to fund renovations, new facilities and the many community health, education and employment initiatives they are involved in.
“Club rugby is such a force for good in our communities, many of which are really isolated and hard to reach, so this initiative is a win-win-win,” said Martin Cleave, Rugby for Life trustee.
“Māori health providers help to deliver medical shots in the arms of people in remote parts of the region, rugby clubs get the financial shot in the arm they desperately need, and communities get a social shot in the arm through all the cool things that the clubs are able to keep on doing.”
Rugby for Life wants any commercial organisations who would like to support the ‘Take 2 for the Team’ initiative with donations of cash or products, to make themselves known. Donations can be targeted at a specific club or distributed evenly among all participating clubs.
“Businesses have asked how they can support the program and say thanks to the clubs for driving us towards the 90 percent target and keeping us all safe and out of future lockdowns,” Mr Cleave said.
‘Take 2 for The Team’ is designed to reach all Northlanders but its primary focus is Māori and Pasifika communities. Mr Cleave said club rugby was an ideal vehicle to reach these communities in Northland because they comprise 63 percent of the region’s club rugby players aged 12 years and older.
There are 4,896 Māori and Pasifika club rugby players in Northland across all age groups. If just three members from each whanau are vaccinated, along with each of the 2,843 players over 12, that would lead to over 17,500 vaccinations.
“It’s no secret that these are the hard-to-reach people with this vaccination roll-out,” said Mr Cleave. “Māori and Pasifika communities in Northland are trailing by a significant margin other ethnic groups when it comes to being vaccinated against COVID-19. The important thing is to get as many people vaccinated as possible. Who wants more Level Four? We certainly don’t. We’re delighted to be able to use the power of club rugby to help make that happen.”
If rugby players from all racial groups are taken into account the ‘Take 2 for The Team’ initiative could see more than 29,000 Northlanders jabbed and more than $580,000 going to participating clubs and schools.
“If Rugby for Life and the ‘Take 2 for The Team’ campaign can deliver 29,000 shoulders to be jabbed twice, that’s 58,000 doses,” Mr Cleave said. “We believe this is something worth trying to achieve and we ask all Northland sporting clubs, regardless of the code, to join our rolling maul and help get us over that line.”
Mr Cleave said there had been no local, regional or national government involvement in the development of the ‘Take 2 for The Team’ initiative.
“This is something that we, as a rugby community, have created with the help and support of our eight Māori health provider partners and other sporting codes.”
‘Take 2 for The Team’ will encourage and enable sporting club members, regardless of which sport they play, to head into their local Māori health provider to be vaccinated. But it will also take the vaccination programme to the wider Northland community directly by using sporting club functions and the region’s most high-profile sporting events.
“For instance, club rugby games and other functions will easily attract anywhere between 50 and 500 people so we will be there with the awesome teams from our Māori health provider partners, encouraging and persuading people to do the right thing,” Mr Cleave said.
“Likewise, large numbers of family and whanau attend key fixtures such as the Northland Under-16s rugby final and equally significant matches played by other sports. So we’ll be running out with other sporting bodies such as Northland Hockey to use the pulling power and the magic of sport to help get Northland to that 90 percent mark by Christmas.”
Leading Northland rugby players are fronting the programme to encourage their fans to ‘Take 2 for The Team’. Community leaders are also lending their faces, voices and mana to the initiative.
A special ‘Take 2 for The Team’ website (www.take2fortheteam.kiwi) has been produced to tell people where their nearest Māori health provider is, and how to get there. It also includes a list of the sporting events at which the initiative will be present and any instructions about how to get vaccinated there.
Mr Cleave said the initiative had decided on a ‘walk in’ and ‘walk over’ approach.
“We’ve seen that an appointments system just doesn’t work for these hard-to-reach groups. There are heaps of reasons for this and we’re just not interested in trying to mitigate. So instead we’ll be inviting, urging and encouraging people simply to walk over to us at a rugby match, a hockey match, a netball game, wherever, and get their jabs. If they give us the name of their sporting club, whatever the code, that club will get $10 for every jab they get. Simple as that.”
“The point is to make it as quick, easy, convenient and hassle-free for as many people as possible. This is Northland v. COVID and we’re going to make it as easy as possible for our people to ‘Take 2 for The Team’.”
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