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2005 Influenza vaccine - Dr Don Matheson Statement

Media Release

14 March 2005

2005 Influenza vaccine -- please attribute to Deputy Director-General, Public Health, Dr Don Matheson

The Ministry of Health expects to be able to announce its approach to the 2005 influenza vaccine programme tomorrow afternoon.

The Ministry has today again met with the vaccine manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur (France) to obtain further information about the potential problem with the effectiveness of the vaccine for one of the three strains of influenza the vaccine provides protection against.

The Ministry has also met with an expert advisory group to discuss the options available to New Zealand to now provide the best protection against influenza this winter.

It's important to stress that the Sanofi vaccine is safe and effective in providing protection against two of the three strains.

The Ministry is continuing to seek further information from Sanofi Pasteur, as well as expert advice from clinicians, but will be in a position tomorrow outline how the Ministry will combat the predicted influenza illness expected to begin in winter.

Although the Ministry recommends influenza immunisation as soon as possible, the New Zealand vaccination programme runs until the end of June and the high peak for influenza is normally not until the winter months. A short delay, while inconvenient, especially for medical professionals planning to deliver the vaccine, should not affect the overall vaccination programme.

Different influenza strains circulate each year. The World Health Organization selects the strains for inclusion in vaccines annually.

This year the Southern Hemisphere vaccine contains three influenza strains: A/Wellington/2004 (H3N2), A/New Caledonia/1999 (H1N1) and B/Shanghai/2002.

The Ministry of Health's influenza vaccination programme normally starts as soon as the vaccine becomes available in about mid-March. Last year the influenza campaign began on 21 March.

ENDS

Note: The Ministry's approach to this year's influenza vaccine campaign will be announced at a media conference at 2.15pm Tuesday 15 March 2005. Venue to be advised.

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