Two million flu shots for COVID winter plan

The Government is ramping up the flu vaccination campaign which starts today, with 40 per cent more flu shots available this year as part of the COVID-19 winter plan.

New Zealand usually uses about 1.4 million flu vaccines a year. This year, the Government is making two million available and is widening eligibility for people to get vaccinated for free.

“With the Omicron wave still working its way through the country, we need to protect our most vulnerable from getting the flu as well, and our health system from coming under more pressure,” Health Minister Andrew Little said.

“We already make the flu shot available for free for everyone over the age of 65, and for those who are pregnant or at risk of becoming seriously ill because of other underlying conditions.

“This winter, on the advice of doctors, we’re widening eligibility to include Māori and Pacific people aged 55 and over, which means an extra 39,000 people can have the vaccine for free.”

Andrew Little urged as many people as possible to get the vaccine.

“In an ordinary year, flu kills more than 500 New Zealanders. And this is no ordinary year,” he said.

“Every year, about half the people eligible for free vaccination take it up. For the past two years, with the country closed to the rest of the world because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve been largely free of colds and flu.

“That’s changing, though, with our borders opening, and I encourage everyone – and especially the most vulnerable – to get vaccinated. Anyone who is part of Group Three for the COVID vaccination rollout should make sure they get a flu shot.

“The programme is being rolled out across the country from today, with vaccinations available from family doctors, pharmacists and some Māori and Pacific health providers.

“We’re looking at ways to increase the vaccination workforce to get flu shots to those who need them. We have trained and authorised many new pharmacist vaccinators over the past two years, including provisional pharmacist vaccinators who are able to administer the influenza vaccine.”

The $12 million expansion programme is being funded from the Government’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund.