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Last Chance For Immunisation In Face Of Influenza

Last Chance For Immunisation In Face Of Influenza Outbreak

PEOPLE who have so far escaped the current outbreak of influenza in the North Island have their last chance to take advantage of free influenza vaccinations over the next few days.

These shots are free until the end of this month for those most at risk of contracting influenza -- people aged 65 years and over as well as children and adults with certain ongoing medical conditions.

Dr Jennings is warning those who have not already received their annual influenza vaccination to get immunised to protect against the highly contagious and potentially life-threatening infection.

The Ministry of Health is urging the public not to be complacent about influenza because it can be life-threatening and there are still many in high-risk groups not taking the precautions they need to.

National Influenza Immunisation Strategy Group member and virologist Dr Lance Jennings said the vaccination offered good protection against the current strains of influenza type A and B.

"There is increasing influenza activity in the North Island and the outbreak appears to be moving south. This outbreak is expected to affect the South Island in coming weeks."

"Don't delay as it takes 10 to 14 days for the vaccination to become fully effective and protect people."

Dr Jennings said a dose of influenza could see some people hospitalised for pneumonia or face complications with their existing illnesses or diseases.

"Influenza makes most people feel miserable for up to 10 days but we are most concerned about the longer lasting effects on the elderly or those with chronic illnesses. If these people get influenza they can't always bounce back to good health."

At the end of May this year, approximately 156,000 funded doses of influenza vaccine had been administered to people 65 and older.

In the week ending June 22, there were about 124 cases per 100 000 people nationally. The individual health districts with the highest rates were Tauranga (767 per 100 000) and Eastern Bay of Plenty (500 per 100 000). The current rate of influenza is considerably higher than at the same time last year.

In the three Auckland health districts (South Auckland, Central and Northwest Auckland) there was a combined rate of about 550 cases per 100 000.

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.

"While vaccination remains the primary line of defence against influenza, the availability of two anti-influenza drugs means there are also now effective treatments available here, further boosting the fight against influenza."

ENDS

For more information contact: Anne-Marie Robinson, Media Advisor, ph: 04-496-2067 or 025-802 622 Internet address: http://www.moh.govt.nz/media.html or Dr Lance Jennings (03) 364 0075, 021 639 590 or ring 0800 IMMUNE or 0800 466 863.

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 and severe 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%.

Ends


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