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New Zealanders rush in for influenza vaccination

MEDIA STATEMENT

www.influenza.org.nz
April 18, 2006

New Zealanders rush in for influenza vaccination

New Zealanders have rushed into surgeries for an influenza vaccination this season, according to the latest distribution figures from Healthcare Logistics.

Only five weeks into the four-month campaign, surgeries and clinics have already received more than 557,280 doses of influenza vaccine, which is more than 75 percent of the doses distributed in the entire 2005 season.

Influenza immunisation is free for New Zealanders at high risk of complications of influenza -- people aged 65 and over and those of any age with ongoing health conditions such as asthma, auto immune diseases, heart disease, stroke and diabetes, until June 30, 2006.

All District Health Boards offer free influenza vaccinations to their staff, while many employers provide influenza vaccination free to employees as part of health and safety programmes.

“This early trend is very encouraging. Immunisation, coupled with good hygiene, is still your best protection from this highly contagious and serious virus,” says virologist and National Influenza Strategy Group spokesperson, Dr Lance Jennings

Dr Jennings advises people, especially those in the high risk groups, to get their influenza vaccination as soon as possible as it takes up to two weeks to develop immunity. The main influenza activity is usually from May to September.

Meanwhile, PHARMAC medical director Dr Peter Moodie says there was an increased demand for influenza vaccine in the recent Northern Hemisphere winter season and the manufacturers of the subsidised vaccine for New Zealand this season have taken that into account when planning stocks.

Influenza is a serious viral infection – much worse than a cold. The illness can last for days, usually confines you to bed and can carry the risk of hospitalisation or death.

“You’re never too fit to get hit. The influenza vaccine cannot give you influenza as the vaccine does not contain any live viruses, “adds Dr Jennings.

There is currently a risk of an influenza pandemic arising from avian influenza viruses. You cannot yet immunise against avian influenza but you can immunise against seasonal influenza. Being ill with seasonal influenza would make you even more vulnerable, should a pandemic strike so vaccination against the seasonal influenza is recommended.

Even when you are immunised you should practice good hygiene to prevent the spread of other infections. You should cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing and then wash your hands. You should always use disposable tissues and stay at home when sick.

Call your family doctor or nurse to ask about influenza immunisation.

For further information go to www.influenza.org.nz or www.moh.govt.nz or call 0800 IMMUNE 0800 466 863.

ENDS

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