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Vaccination TV campaign targets fit people

Influenza vaccination TV campaign targets people who think their fitness will keep the virus at bay

Former All Black captain, Buck Shelford has a strong message for New Zealanders who think they can escape the influenza virus because they’re usually healthy or they’ve never had it before.

Shelford says, “You’re never too fit to get hit” in the latest influenza vaccination television campaign which starts this week. And he should know because they don’t come much fitter than an All Black rugby player.

“Like many people, I thought that being fit and healthy would protect you from getting influenza. But I’ve seen the virus make fit sportspeople really sick and weak for weeks,” he says.

The new TV ad campaign, which runs for four weeks, is sponsored by the Ministry of Health’s National Influenza Strategy Group (NISG1).

Shelford fronted the campaign in 2005 and NISG’s research shows it made a strong impact on the target groups.

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.

Virologist and NISG spokesperson, Dr Lance Jennings says people often underestimate influenza.

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

He adds that the influenza vaccine cannot give you influenza as the vaccine does not contain any live viruses.

“Immunisation, coupled with good hygiene, is still your best protection from this highly contagious and serious virus,” he says.

With winter fast approaching, 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. He says that although around 600,000 people have already been immunized this season, NISG wants to ensure that people in the high risk groups are covered.

There is currently a risk of an influenza pandemic arising from avian influenza viruses. There is no immunisation against avian influenza yet 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 practise 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 or or call 0800 IMMUNE 0800 466 863.


1National Influenza Strategy Group (NISG)
NISG was formed in 2000 to help District Health Boards and the Ministry of Health to meet the national influenza immunisation target. It aims to increase public awareness of influenza, its seriousness and the importance of immunisation to prevent the disease.

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