Health specialists are supporting the Government’s launch of the annual influenza immunisation campaign today at Wellington Regional Hospital’s high-risk maternity clinic.
A special focus of this year’s seasonal influenza immunisation programme is pregnant women and their newborn babies. Influenza vaccine has been used for many years in pregnant women, with no safety concerns, and can be given in any trimester.
Healthy, pregnant women are up to 18 times more likely to be admitted to hospital when suffering from influenza than non-pregnant women. New Zealand women have direct experience of this.
“Pregnant women are at particularly high risk of severe complications and death from influenza because of the changes that occur to their immune and other systems during pregnancy,” says Lesley Dixon, New Zealand College of Midwives spokesperson.
“Influenza immunisation in pregnancy also offers protection to the newborn baby during the first few months of life,” says National Influenza Specialist Group spokesperson and virologist, Dr Lance Jennings.
“As well as pregnant women, we would particularly like to encourage all eligible adults, including younger people, who have ongoing medical conditions to consider free immunisation. Our research shows there is a degree of complacency among younger people in particular which we need to overcome to protect them. You are never too fit to get hit by influenza,” says Dr Jennings.
Influenza immunisation is free from a GP or nurse until July 31, 2014 for New Zealanders at high risk of complications – pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, and anyone under 65 years of age, including children six months and older, with long-term health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease (including asthma), kidney disease and most cancers.
The influenza vaccine for 2014 Southern Hemisphere season includes two new strains based upon recommendations from the World Health Organization on the strains most likely to spread and cause illness in people this season. These are newly included in the vaccine, not new or novel viruses.
The composition is:
- A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus
- A/Texas/50/2012 (H3N2)-like virus (New)
- B/Massachusetts/2/2012-like virus (New)
NISG Brenda Saunders 021 777 171.