Health Minister Jonathan Coleman today launched the annual influenza immunisation campaign at Unichem Miramar Pharmacy, Wellington.
“More than one million New Zealanders get immunised against influenza each year,” says Dr Coleman.
“A recent New Zealand study showed that most people infected with influenza in 2015 didn’t experience any symptoms, but could still have spread the virus without realising it.
“By being immunised, we not only protect ourselves, but we help to ensure we don’t pass on influenza to our families, friends and colleagues.
“One of the ongoing challenges of the influenza programme is improving immunisation coverage for groups who are eligible for free immunisation, particularly among people with ongoing medical conditions.
“Pharmac has made changes to the provision of free influenza immunisation so pharmacists will be able to provide free immunisation to pregnant women and those aged 65 years and older.”
Influenza immunisation is free for New Zealanders at high risk of complications, through their general practice. Many employers also provide free vaccination for their staff. Those who aren’t eligible for free immunisation can purchase it from general practices and some pharmacies.
High risk groups include those with long term health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease, kidney disease, cancer, as well as pregnant women and people aged 65 and over.
The vaccine will be funded for eligible patients until the end of 2017, a longer period than in recent years. Similar to previous years, a total of 1.2 million doses are expected to be distributed.
This year the influenza vaccine has one new strain to ensure New Zealanders are better protected this winter from the strains of influenza circulating around the world.