Over-65s flu vaccination missing targets – especially among Māori

Another year of the Government’s failed influenza vaccination programme will cost lives, says National’s Health spokesperson Dr Shane Reti.

“In his answer to my questions about flu vaccination for over-65s this year, the Health Minister says flu vaccination coverage currently is 63 per cent (table attached). That’s even worse than last year and well below the target vaccination rate of 75 per cent.

“Even more worrying is the flu vaccination rate among Māori – down by 10% compared to last year.

“Some district health boards have experienced an astounding drop in flu vaccination rates. Hawke’s Bay is down by 25 per cent, Whanganui by 21 per cent and Lakes down by 19 per cent. These are DHBs with large Māori populations.

“A combination of late deployment of the Covid vaccine and the need to have two weeks between that and the flu vaccine may account for the poor take-up, However, there were several months between the start of flu vaccination in April and the eligibility for those in Group 3 (over-65s, those at-risk due to other conditions) to get the Covid vaccination.

“Urgent work is required to address the significant drop in flu vaccine uptake among Māori, especially in the Hawke’s Bay, Whanganui and Lakes DHBs.

“It’s yet another health target that the Government has failed on. With around 400 people dying each year from flu, this failure will certainly cost lives.

“It is hard to think of a single year since Labour have been in Government when the flu vaccine program went to schedule.

“Following reporting of failed Year 13 vaccines for schoolchildren this year, this is another preventative vaccine that has gone under the coronavirus radar and that New Zealanders will pay the price for.

“Failed delivery of preventative vaccines for schoolchildren and over-65s, increasing wait times for 30,000 people on hospital lists and increasing waitlists for people with cancer and mental health are all part of this Labour Government’s dirty little secret – it’s incapable of dealing with other critical health needs during Covid.

“Instead of making health restructuring the top health funding priority this year, as Cabinet documents show, the Government should have been investing in this year’s flu vaccination programme, reducing waiting lists, and prioritising cancer treatment and mental health assistance.”

You can see the table of information provided through Parliamentary Written Questions here.