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Not too late to get ahead of flu peak

It’s not too late for eligible Waikato residents to get a free influenza vaccination before the peak flu season.

Influenza vaccination is free for people aged 65 years and over, pregnant women, people with long term health conditions such as severe asthma, and children under five who have been hospitalised for a respiratory illness.

The Government’s free programme has just been extended until August 31.

“Those at greatest risk from flu complications should be immunised as soon as possible. Influenza cases traditionally begin to rise sharply at this time of year and it takes up to two weeks to provide full protection after vaccination,” advises Dr Nikki Turner, spokesperson for the National Influenza Immunisation Campaign.

To date more than 1.23 million influenza vaccines have been distributed across the country, protecting over a quarter of the population. However, not all those eligible for free vaccination have taken up the offer so far.

“That still leaves many vulnerable people unprotected and this is a concern as we head into peak flu season.”

Dr Turner says the vaccine has so far been a good match for the predominant influenza strains in circulation this year.

Those who aren’t eligible for free immunisation can purchase it from general practices and some pharmacies.

Dr Turner says the influenza vaccine only works on the influenza virus. It doesn’t prevent other respiratory viral infections, including common colds.  However, influenza may be far more serious than a cold and can lead to a stay in hospital or even death.

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

Dr Turner says that as well as getting an influenza vaccination you may protect yourself and your family/whanau from influenza if you:

  • Wash and dry your hands often
  • Stay away from people who are sick
  • Stay away from work or school if you’re unwell
  • Cover your coughs and sneezes.

For free health advice, call Healthline 0800 611 116. For advice about influenza immunisation visit www.fightflu.co.nz. The influenza vaccine is a prescription medicine. Talk to your doctor or nurse today about the benefits and possible risks.

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