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Time for influenza vaccination

Time for influenza vaccination

BULK delivery of replacement vaccines is good news for New Zealanders waiting to protect themselves against influenza this winter, the Ministry of Health says.

"By Friday this week all GPs and other vaccinators should have supplies of the three Government-subsidised vaccines being used this year to protect those most at-risk from influenza, "Ministry spokesman Dr Don Matheson said.

"At the same time we have reviewed the information we get from our surveillance network, which has confirmed only sporadic cases and no evidence of widespread transmission. Given the usual pattern of winter flu, and the two weeks it takes for those vaccinated to develop immunity, we are reasonably confident that despite our late start we can still protect most vulnerable New Zealanders."

Dr Matheson said a total of 360,000 doses arrived in New Zealand today - more than had been expected. "Allowing for the usual quality checks and repackaging for distribution we anticipate this will allow all current orders to be met by the end of this week.

"I hope this will relieve the anxiety many elderly people have been feeling, and reduce the pressure on GPs and other vaccinators who have borne the brunt of the difficulties we have had this year," he said.

"Bear in mind that we have already distributed 100,000 doses of subsidised vaccines and that in previous years total demand for these has been about 450,000 people."

This year's influenza vaccination campaign started later than usual, after vaccine producers Sanofi-Pasteur advised that one of the three strains in their product, Vaxigrip, was less potent than specified. That prompted a decision to buy full-strength stock from other suppliers to ensure immunisation of the at-risk population, particularly the elderly.

Vaxigrip was approved for use in clinically healthy people under 65. At the same time Sanofi-Pasteur agreed to perform clinical studies to demonstrate that it could be used in a wider group of patients. Results to that effect, made public today, are the subject of an evaluation by Medsafe, the Ministry of Health's drug regulation agency.


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