New Zealand’s Maori have some blunt words for anti-vaccine protesters. The haka, which has morphed from a traditional war dance to a viral social media sensation, has become a rallying cry against vaccines. The protest, which started a year ago and has grown to become a kind of public health movement, has drawn particular ire from a popular Māori activist, Te Ururoa Flavell.
“Educate yourself about the children of our people,” Flavell tweeted Friday, before blocking anti-vaccine protesters on Twitter who had been criticizing his moves with haka. “Let’s stop this nonsense, before you harm our young people. [sic]”
You will play again, February 6.
Let’s stop this nonsense, before you harm our young people.#No1Vote #VotewithYourMind @TeUruOlaim
#No1Vote #VotewithYourMind https://t.co/0Li5KHvIoP — Te Uru Olaim (@TeUruOlaim) May 27, 2016
A new film, The 3 Māori Lives, explores the importance of immunization in Māori culture. Actor Benedict Wong, who is half-Aotearoa, the Maori language, explained in an interview with NPR last year:
I grew up in a community where I never touched my sister. She was kicked out of the house. My dad … his belief was that the thought of touching his daughter — I don’t think that’s necessarily an epidemic, but some communities [will] jump on that stuff and say ‘oh, this is weird that she’s not brushing her teeth.’ And, look, we all got our stuff done, but nothing stood out. I’m very proud of my culture, that I’m a Māori, the more traditional culture, and that that’s who I am.
This has left others, like the Māori apologist for vaccines, Marama Fox, feeling attacked. “I’m disgusted that every week we now see a raised amount of anti-vaccine people, trying to make Maori communities hate vaccines and they think that’s their role,” she told New Zealand television. She has tried to reach out to anti-vaccine activists with public apologies and a video apology for having “silenced other people.”
The New Zealand Health Department has released a list of anti-vaccine celebrities, who include Jenny McCarthy, Bill Maher and Stephen Colbert. NBC News notes that in a 2014 study, oncologists in New Zealand found that TV had a negative impact on vaccination rates: “Viewers saw fewer ads for vaccination and medical checkups, and more ads for alternative medicines. More households also started receiving cards with incorrect information about vaccinations.”