Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says more than one million doses of seasonal influenza vaccine have now been distributed.
“A recent New Zealand study showed that most people infected with influenza in 2015 didn’t experience any symptoms, but could still have spread the virus without realising it,” says Dr Coleman.
“By being immunised, we not only protect ourselves, but we help to ensure we don’t pass on influenza to our families, friends and colleagues.
“This is the sixth year in a row where more than a million doses have been distributed. Most influenza immunisation takes place in late autumn, as such we expect to reach our target of 1.2 million doses by early August.”
It takes up to two weeks for the vaccine to start providing protection, so immunisation is recommended before the beginning of winter.
Pharmac has made changes to the provision of free influenza immunisation this year which means for the first time pharmacists are able to provide free immunisation to pregnant women and those aged 65 years and older.
Influenza immunisation is free for New Zealanders at high risk of complications, through their general practice. Many employers also provide free vaccination for their staff. Those who aren't eligible for free immunisation can purchase it from general practices and some pharmacies.
High risk groups include those with long term health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease, kidney disease, cancer, as well as pregnant women and people aged 65 and over.
This year the influenza vaccine has one new strain to ensure New Zealanders are better protected this winter from the strains of influenza circulating around the world.
Notes to editors:
The publicly funded vaccine is available until the end of December, however immunisation is recommended before the beginning of winter.
The influenza vaccine for the 2017 season includes one new strain* based on recommendations from the World Health Organization. The composition is:*A/Michigan/45/2015(H1N1) pdm09-like virus A/Hong Kong/4801/2014(H3N2)-like virus B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus