More People To Get Free 'flu Vaccine

  • Bill English

Health Minister Bill English announced today that more people would be eligible to receive free vaccination against influenza this year because the criteria had been extended to include people with some chronic illnesses.

"Free vaccinations are already provided to people aged 65 years and older. People of any age with chronic conditions such as cardiovascular disease, renal disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, malignant disease and some other conditions that mean they are more at risk of complications will now also be eligible.

"The free vaccinations are a way of combating the number of influenza complications, including pneumonia, which can mean people need to be admitted to hospital, and can lead to death. Overseas studies suggest influenza immunisation cuts hospitalisations by half and deaths by two thirds for people aged 65 years and over.

"The extension, which comes into force in March, is the final part of a $17.4 million Government programme announced three years ago of to introduce the free vaccination programme and promote its use.

"In the midst of summer weather like we're having, flu is pretty far from people's minds. But people with chronic conditions or aged 65 and older should think about having a free vaccine this year because it could keep them out of hospital this winter and may even save their life.

"People should see their GP to obtain their free flu vaccine," said Mr English.