|News and media|
Influenza immunisation campaign breaks recordMore New Zealanders have received seasonal influenza immunisation this year than ever before.
Only halfway into its four-month campaign, the National Influenza Strategy Group (NISG) 1 confirmed that 807,539 doses of vaccine had already been distributed nationwide, topping the previous total of 756,750 for the entire 2008 season (March – July). The figure also exceeds the highest ever total of 761,150 doses recorded in 2006.
NISG promotes Government-subsidised seasonal influenza immunisation to New Zealanders at high risk of complications from this serious illness.
NISG spokesperson and virologist Dr Lance Jennings says that New Zealanders are clearly getting the message that influenza can be a serious disease and vaccination is their best protection. He says that the current seasonal vaccine is unlikely to protect people against the new virus from Mexico.
“This record early uptake puts New Zealanders in a very good position to face this coming winter. Even before we knew about the novel influenza virus in Mexico, vaccine uptake was already well ahead on previous years,” says Dr Jennings.
He adds that by protecting yourself against other strains of influenza you are far less likely to have had the disease and be in weak health should you also come in contact with the new virus.
Influenza immunisation is free for New Zealanders at high risk of complications - people aged 65 and over and people of any age including children, with long-term health conditions such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease, stroke, respiratory disease, kidney disease, immune suppression and most cancers. It is available free from a doctor or nurse to these groups until June 30.
Dr Jennings says people who are eligible for free vaccination should contact their surgery as soon as possible to arrange an appointment.
He says an extra 125,000 doses of seasonal influenza vaccine were ordered by the Ministry of Health to cater for the recent increase in demand.
“Some of the extra doses have already arrived in the country and there is sufficient vaccine stock in New Zealand to ensure there are no restrictions on the maximum quantity of vaccine that may be purchased.”
This year’s influenza vaccine offers protection against an A Brisbane/10/2007(H3N2)-like strain, an A Brisbane/59/2007(H1N1)-like strain and a B /Florida/4/2006-like strain.
Meanwhile, people who have travelled to Mexico or North America in the last fortnight should contact Healthline (0800 611 116) if they have flu-like symptoms or promptly seek medical advice.
NISG : Brenda Saunders, Auckland Phone: 09 536 6753 or (021) 777 171
Dr Lance Jennings, Christchurch Phone: 03 364 0075
Background Information on Seasonal Influenza:Influenza and ‘the Flu’ are the same thing. It is a potentially serious viral infection – much worse than a cold. The illness can last for weeks, often confines you to bed and can carry the risk of severe complications or death.
The influenza vaccine cannot give you influenza as the vaccine does not contain any live viruses.
The influenza virus changes each year so it’s important that people are immunised annually to gain protection from the strains most likely to circulate.
Even when you are immunised you should practise good hygiene to prevent the spread of the infection. You should cover your mouth with a disposable tissue when coughing or sneezing and then wash your hands. You should always stay at home when sick.
For further information on seasonal influenza immunisation go to www.fightflu.co.nz or www.moh.govt.nz or call 0800 IMMUNE 0800 466 863.
1National Influenza Strategy Group (NISG)
NISG was formed in 2000 by the Ministry of Health to help District Health Boards and the Ministry meet the national influenza immunisation target. The group aims to increase public awareness of influenza, its seriousness and the importance of immunisation to prevent the disease.