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Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says 1.2 million New Zealanders have been immunised with the seasonal influenza vaccine this year.

“This is the sixth year in a row where more than a million doses have been distributed before influenza cases peak and this is a credit to the sector,” says Dr Coleman.

“The influenza season officially began last week and as the vaccine takes up to two weeks to start providing protection it is best to get immunised now.

“The virus can be spread by people who don’t experience symptoms. 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.”

The vaccine is available free for high-risk groups from general practices and many community pharmacies until 31 December.

High-risk groups include people aged 65 years and over, pregnant women, those with long-term health conditions such as severe asthma, and children under five years who have been hospitalised for a respiratory illness.

Those who are not eligible for free immunisation can also purchase a vaccination from general practices and some pharmacies.

The Ministry of Health recommends staying at home if you’re unwell, covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or your inner elbow when you cough or sneeze, and washing your hands regularly, to reduce the spread of illness to others.

For free health advice, call Healthline 0800 611 116.  For advice about influenza immunisation visit www.fightflu.co.nz or text FLU to 515.

Note to Editors:

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

For further information, go to www.fightflu.co.nz or www.health.govt.nz/influenza or call 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863)

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