More Kiwis get flu vaccination

21 May 2012

More than 858,980 doses of influenza vaccine have already been distributed this year in New Zealand, an increase of 28,530 doses for the same period in 2011.

Although many Kiwis have had their annual influenza vaccination early this year, a leading virus expert says time is running out for those who are still unprotected from this serious illness.

“People should call their doctor or nurse as soon as possible to book their ‘flu’ vaccination as it can take up to two weeks to develop immunity from the time of vaccination. Flu cases usually start to rise about now with the onset of winter,” warns National Influenza Specialist Group (NISG)1 spokesperson and virus expert Dr Lance Jennings.

Flu immunisation is free for New Zealanders at high risk of more severe disease and complications – pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, and anyone with ongoing health conditions such as heart disease, strokes, diabetes, respiratory disease (including asthma), kidney disease and most cancers. Canterbury residents also qualify for free vaccination if they are aged between 6 months and 18 years old.

Dr Jennings says it’s good to see New Zealanders have heeded the national advice to vaccinate before winter.

“If you wait until people around you are infected it may be too late. The influenza virus is easily spread and anyone, young or old, fit or unwell, can catch it and can get very sick. Influenza or ‘flu’ can be a serious illness – it’s more than a ‘bad cold’, he says.

“Some people can end up in hospital and it’s estimated more than 400 people die each year in New Zealand because the disease can make other conditions, such as breathing or heart problems, even worse. That’s greater than our national road toll of 280 deaths in the past 12 months so the seriousness of influenza viruses shouldn’t be underestimated.

“Even a moderate dose of flu can stop you from working, studying or enjoying other activities for a week or more. And some people feel tired for weeks afterwards.”

Influenza vaccine is only free for eligible groups from a doctor or nurse until July 31. Vaccine is available to other people for a small charge. Immunisation is available, but not free, for healthy children six months and over and adults.

Influenza immunisation cannot give you the flu because it does not contain live viruses. There can be side effects, and these usually disappear within 1-2 days without treatment.

NISG says that as well as getting a flu vaccination there are other ways you can protect yourself and your family/whanau from flu including:

  • 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 further information go to or or call 0800 IMMUNE 0800 466 863.

Media contact:
Brenda Saunders
021 777 171 or 09 536 6753.

National Influenza Specialist Group (NISG)
NISG was formed in 2000 by the Ministry of Health to increase public awareness of influenza, its seriousness and the importance of immunisation to prevent the disease.



Last updated: Monday, May 21, 2012

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