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Vaccination our best shot to avoid the flu

Minister of Health

Health Minister Dr David Clark has rolled up his sleeve today for his influenza vaccination as part of the annual campaign that kicked off last week.

“Lifting immunisation rates for health care workers is a particular focus this year so I encourage District Health Boards to embrace the Ministry of Health’s goal that at least 80 per cent of healthcare workers are vaccinated to avoid passing the virus to vulnerable patients,” Dr Clark said.

“I hope this year is a record-breaker after more than 1.2 million New Zealanders got vaccinated last year, which was a fantastic effort. This year’s funded vaccine will protect against four strains of influenza for the first time, including the A(H3N2) strain that badly affected people in the Northern Hemisphere during their winter.

“Our influenza season normally begins from June, so getting vaccinated by mid-May is the best way to be protected for winter. If you’re vaccinated, you’re less likely to catch influenza, less likely to pass it on to others, and less likely to be severely ill if you do catch it.

“Recent research shows about one in four New Zealanders is infected with influenza each winter, but many don’t develop symptoms and may be unaware they’re sick. But many tens of thousands seek medical advice for flu-like symptoms every year and on average, about 400 die of influenza or its complications each year.

“People can get their flu shot for free if they’re at high risk of getting influenza, including those aged 65 and older, pregnant women, and people with chronic or serious health conditions, such as heart disease, cancer or severe asthma. Many employers also provide free influenza vaccination to staff, which it is a great way to protect employees’ health at the same time as reducing the disruption to business caused by influenza each winter.

“The vaccine is available from general practices and many community pharmacies for those eligible for it free or for a small fee,” Dr Clark said.

More information about influenza can be found here.

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