Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says the 2015 seasonal influenza immunisation programme will be extended from 31 July to the end of August.
“Ministry of Health surveillance suggests that influenza has not yet peaked this winter. To help ensure people have the protection they need we are extending the funded vaccination season until 31 August,” says Dr Coleman.
“The A-H3N2 strain, which is covered by the vaccine, appears to be the predominant type – this strain affects the elderly and very young more severely than other strains.”
The influenza vaccine 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 years who have been hospitalised for a respiratory illness. People with Down Syndrome and those with cochlear implants are now eligible for the vaccine.
Influenza vaccine is also available for purchase from general practices and many pharmacies for those who are not eligible for the free vaccine.
“Although the vaccine was delayed worldwide by a few weeks, the health sector has quickly caught up with previous years’ distribution,” says Dr Coleman.
“To date, almost 1.19 million flu vaccines have been distributed across the country, protecting over a quarter of our population.”
The influenza vaccine for the 2015 season includes two new strains based on recommendations from the World Health Organization. The composition is:
A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like virus
A/Switzerland/9715293/2013 (H3N2)-like virus (New)
B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (New)
Make an appointment with your GP or check with your chemist to get your vaccination.