Last Minute Rush To Get Immunised
A late rush to be immunised against influenza while the injection was still free saw 25,000 doses of the vaccine distributed in just six days.
Distributors worked overtime to keep up with demand for the vaccine as doctors and health professionals catered for people desperate on Friday and Saturday to make use of the last days of free vaccination.
From early March until June 30 vaccination was free 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.
Uptake of the vaccine to the end of May was 62,000 doses behind the same time last year. As of today, the uptake is just 38,000 doses behind.
National Influenza Immunisation Strategy Group member and virologist Dr Lance Jennings said the sudden increase was due to Ministry of Health warnings that an influenza epidemic was moving through New Zealand and the subsequent media coverage.
"It's pleasing to see so many people deciding to be immunised. 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".
People who want to be immunised against influenza should talk to their doctor. Now that the time period for a getting a free vaccination has come to an end people can expect to be charged between $15-$20.
"We have encouraged proactive immunisation. The time period for free vaccinations will not be extended as it is often too late to get vaccinated once an epidemic has arrived. The vaccination takes 10-14 days to be effective".
Dr Jennings reassured the public that there was no shortage of the influenza vaccine.
"Some doctors may have needed to replenish vaccine stocks in the last week as large numbers of people hurried to get their free inoculation before the end of the month".