Flu vaccine to protect Kiwis this winter

Health

From today, 1.8 million flu vaccines are available to help protect New Zealanders from winter illness, Minister of Health Ayesha Verrall has announced.

“Vaccination against flu is safe and will be a first line of defence against severe illness this winter,” Dr Verrall said.

“We can all play a part in preventing illness that send people to hospital, so I’m getting my flu shot today, and urge others to do the same.

“Every winter, our hospitals and the wider healthcare system see an increase in pressure, particularly around admissions for respiratory infections and other illnesses.

“Last year we saw a combination of COVID and the flu adding to the strain on our hospitals. This year we can help avoid that by getting boosted against COVID and getting a flu jab as well.

“We know flu can be a particularly serious disease for people with weakened immunity, and around 500 New Zealanders die from the flu annually. The flu vaccine reduces the likelihood of ending up in hospital if you get sick this winter.

“The flu vaccine is free for people aged 65 years and over, Māori and Pacific people aged 55 years and over, pregnant people, and people who have long-term conditions like diabetes, asthma, or heart conditions, children aged 6 months to 12 years old, and people with mental health and addiction issues. 

“For many of us, our social lives are now back to what they were pre-Covid so it’s really important to get immunised to help slow the peak of flu season and protect ourselves and our communities,” Dr Verrall said.

From today, an additional Covid-19 bivalent booster is also available, meaning in many cases people will be able to get their flu and Covid booster shots at the same time.

Book your flu and COVID-19 vaccines now at www.BookMyVaccine.co.nz, call Healthline on 0800 28 29 26, or contact your GP, pharmacy or healthcare provider.

“All New Zealanders over 30 and over can access the booster as long as it’s been at least 6 months since their last COVID-19 booster or positive COVID-19 test,” Dr Verrall said.

“People at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 will also be able to receive an additional booster, regardless of how many doses they’ve previously had.

“While we know vaccinations will be hugely important in ensuring people stay well and out of hospital, if people do get sick we also want to make sure they have a range of options to access health advice and care in their community, wherever they are.

“You can get clinical advice from Healthline, your local doctor who may also be able to see you via telehealth, your pharmacy or your local health provider. In key areas of the country Accident and Medical clinics will be open longer, relieving pressure on EDs.

“We can all play a part in staying well this winter,” Dr Verrall said.