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Last chance for free influenza vaccination

Last chance for free influenza vaccination

New Zealanders have less than two weeks left to take advantage of the free influenza vaccination, being offered by the Ministry of Health.

The Ministry is urging people aged 65 years and over, as well as adults and children under 65 with certain chronic medical conditions, to take immediate advantage of the free vaccination, available until the end of June.

"Vaccination is still the best protection against influenza for all people aged 65 years and over - even if they are fit and active. It takes 10-14 days for the vaccine to give full protection so it's best to be immunised now," says Lyn Smith, National Influenza Immunisation Strategy Group spokesperson.

Mrs Smith says people with chronic medical conditions including heart disease; stroke and related diseases; ongoing respiratory (chest) diseases like bronchitis or asthma; diabetes; ongoing kidney disease; most cancers and other conditions including rheumatoid arthritis; organ transplants or HIV/AIDS, should be vaccinated now.

"For people with these conditions, a bout of influenza can lead to severe complications such as pneumonia which in turn can lead to hospitalisation or death."

The effects of influenza this season have been mild compared with 2002. However, nationwide the percentage of people who received influenza vaccinations this year, is so far up 2% from last season.

That is good news, says Mrs Smith, but people must not let their guards down. "While this influenza season has so far been mild, it has not yet peaked. Influenza activity usually peaks either late June or July, when it's generally coldest, so people should not be complacent and should protect themselves now."

Between March and June this year, vaccination providers get $17.69 (incl. GST) from the Government for each vaccination. Eleven dollars of that pays for the work, and $6.69 pays for the vaccine.

If you are in the at-risk group, and visit your doctor's practice for a vaccination before the end of June, the vaccine and administration of the vaccine is free.

Mrs Smith says 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.

"Influenza is easily spread from one person to another and those who are unprotected are at risk. The time to get vaccinated is now."

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