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Free flu immunisation ends soon

New Zealanders eligible for free influenza immunisation have only a short time left to be vaccinated before the Government-subsidised campaign ends for this year on August 31.

The National Influenza Specialist Group (NISG)1 says more than 1.2 million doses of vaccine have been distributed already this year resulting in an estimated 27 percent of the population receiving immunisation (as at August 1).

NISG spokesperson and general practitioner, Dr Nikki Turner, says it is still worthwhile being immunised, even this late in the season.

“We are now seeing many cases of influenza in the community and, sadly, people have died or been admitted to intensive care already with influenza symptoms this year. Influenza is much more than a ‘bad cold’. It is a serious disease that can lead to complications, especially for people with ongoing medical conditions.”

Influenza usually has symptoms such as a sudden onset of illness, high fever, headache, a dry cough and illness usually lasts 7-10 days.

People who are fit and healthy are still at risk from influenza.

“No-one is too fit to get hit. And just because you’ve never had ‘flu’ before doesn’t mean you can’t catch it.  All it takes is for an infected person to cough or sneeze near you or near something you touch within a few hours.”

“The seasonal vaccine has a good safety profile and is between 59% and 73% effective against influenza in healthy adults for years when the circulating and vaccine strains are well matched. The predominant A (H1N1) strain is covered in this year’s vaccine.”

Influenza vaccinations are free from a doctor or nurse for New Zealanders until the end of August if you are in one of these groups:

  • People aged 65 and over
  • Anyone under 65 years of age (including children) with long-term health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease (including asthma), kidney disease and most cancers
  • Pregnant women
  • Children aged from six months and up to five years of age who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness or have a history of significant respiratory illness.
  • In Canterbury, those under 18 are also eligible for free influenza vaccine.

Influenza immunisation will be available after August 31 for a small charge from a doctor, nurse or in some pharmacies.

“Contrary to a widely-held myth, you cannot get influenza from the vaccine, as it does not contain any live virus. Unfortunately some people may be incubating a common cold when vaccinated and then develop respiratory symptoms due to a non-influenza virus.”

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

ENDS

Media contact: Brenda Saunders
Mob: 021 777 171

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