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Ministry of Health funds free influenza vaccine

10 May 2001

Ministry of Health funds free influenza vaccination

DON'T be complacent about influenza, the Ministry of Health is warning, because this common winter ill can cause severe complications, or even death, in some people.

The Ministry is urging people aged 65 years and over and others at risk of developing complications to take advantage of free influenza vaccination this year.

Until the end of June the Ministry will fund vaccinations for the 65-plus, as well as adults and children under 65 with certain chronic medical conditions. The conditions could include heart disease, stroke and related diseases, ongoing respiratory (chest) diseases like bronchitis, diabetes, ongoing kidney disease, most cancers, and other conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, organ transplants or HIV/AIDS.

Ministry of Health spokesperson Dr Paul Bohmer said "these people are more likely to suffer severe complications such as pneumonia which can lead to hospitalisation or death".

At the end of April this year, approximately 153, 300 claims in total had been received for vaccination. This is considerably less than the number of claims received in a similar period last year (195, 300).

"People should not become complacent about vaccination because they didn't get influenza last year, or because the Northern hemisphere did not have a severe influenza epidemic during their last winter. Influenza can strike at any time."

"The influenza vaccine is changed each year to provide protection against new emerging strains of the virus. This is why people need to be vaccinated annually regardless of whether they were vaccinated the year before."

"Vaccination is the best protection against influenza for all people over 65 even if they are fit and active. As it takes 10 to 14 days for the vaccine to give full protection it's best to be immunised before the influenza season starts," Dr Bohmer said.

Influenza is a serious illness causing high fever, muscle aches, headaches, a dry cough and a sore throat and can last for a week. An average 34 people die of influenza in New Zealand each year.

"People often complain about having influenza when in fact they are suffering from a common cold. Influenza's symptoms are more severe than those of a cold and more likely to keep sufferers from going to work and carrying out their daily routines. In a nutshell it makes people feel miserable".

Overseas studies suggest influenza immunisation cuts hospitalisations by half and deaths by two thirds for people aged 65 years and over.

People who are not eligible for the free vaccination can still talk to their doctor about getting vaccinated against influenza. Some businesses subsidise or provide free vaccinations to their employees to decrease winter illnesses.

Anyone wanting more information about influenza can contact the Ministry of Health toll free on 0800 367 847.

ends

Background

Where does the vaccination come from? Providers get the vaccine from GlaxoSmithKline.

Where can you get a free vaccination? You can get a free vaccination from your local GP although a practice nurse may be the one to actually give you the jab. The vaccine is injected into the upper arm and the procedure is fairly painless.

The vaccination is free but what about the doctor's visit? If you are in the target group and visit your doctor for a vaccination before the end of June the entire visit is free. If you are vaccinated during a visit to the doctor about an unrelated matter you will not pay for the cost of the vaccination.

How much is the vaccinator funded for each vaccination? Vaccination providers will get $17.55 (incl. GST) from the Government for each vaccination. Eleven dollars of that pays for the work and $6.55 (incl. GST) pays for the vaccine.

How many free vaccinations were provided last year? Almost 300,000 people were vaccinated at a cost to the government of some $5,265,000

Isn't it highly likely that the strain you catch will be different to the strain you have been immunised against? New Zealand participates in a worldwide surveillance programme. Results from all around the world are gathered by the World Health Organisation which then makes recommendations every year for the vaccine composition. Within New Zealand a surveillance network of GPs look closely at cases of influenza. They send swab specimens to laboratories where strains of influenza are identified. By doing that experts can built up a picture of what's circulating in New Zealand.

What are the symptoms? High fever, muscle aches, headaches, a dry cough, and a sore throat. It can last up to a week.

How do people tell the difference between the early symptoms of influenza and a bad cold? Influenza will leave you ill for up to 10 days usually suffering from a high fever. Patients can also suffer from shivering attacks, muscular pains, headaches, a dry cough, possible vomiting and there can be complications like pneumonia. There is a vaccine available. You can tell when you are suffering a cold as the symptoms last only 2-4 days, high fever is less common and shivering attacks are sever headaches are rare. Muscular pains and vomiting are infrequent and the cough will be less severe. There is no vaccine available.

How safe is the vaccine? The immunisation will not give you influenza because the vaccine contains killed virus. Most people have no reaction to the injection. Occasionally the place where the injection was given is red or sore. Some people may fell unwell for a day or two. These are normal responses to the immunisation.

Does it actually work? Yes. It is up to 90% effective in healthy adults. Influenza vaccination reduces hospitalisation and deaths by 20%-50%.

Hayley Brock Media Advisor Communications Corporate & Information Directorate Ministry of Health DDI: 04 496 2115 Fax: 04 496 2010

http://www.moh.govt.nz mailto:hayley_brock@moh.govt.nz

Hayley Brock Media Advisor Communications Corporate & Information Directorate Ministry of Health DDI: 04 496 2115 Fax: 04 496 2010

http://www.moh.govt.nz mailto:hayley_brock@moh.govt.nz


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