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Pharmacists join campaign to prevent influenza

MEDIA RELEASE


www.influenza.org.nz
April 1, 2008

Pharmacists join campaign to prevent influenza

For the first time in New Zealand community pharmacists will take part in the National Influenza Strategy Group’s (NISG)1 campaign to encourage influenza immunisation.

Pharmacies will be provided with a special “Pharmacy Influenza Kit”, including resources provided by NISG and vaccine supplier sanofi aventis. The pharmacy campaign, which starts this week, has been endorsed by the Pharmacy Guild, the largest community pharmacy association in New Zealand.

“Our members will promote influenza immunisation as part of our Winter Wellness campaign which starts this week,” comments Pharmacy Guild president Steve Wise.

Pharmacists will include information leaflets in prescription bags to help people decide whether they would benefit from influenza vaccination and whether they qualify for free immunisation from their doctor or nurse.

Free influenza immunisation is available to people over 65 or those under 65 with certain ongoing medical conditions such as heart or respiratory disease, diabetes or cancer. It is also recommended for children from six months. Immunisation is available free until June 30, 2008.

“We are delighted that the Pharmacy Guild has come on board to support this campaign. We know that a similar pharmacy campaign in the United Kingdom was successful and boosted vaccine uptake among eligible groups.

“We would like to see the same results here as, despite 3.7 per cent growth among eligible groups from 2006 to 2007, we are still well below target,” says NISG chair Anne-Marie Frost

The new influenza immunisation promotional campaign takes a “Kung Fu” martial arts theme this year to show that immunisation is still one of the best ways to protect yourself and others from influenza and that “you’re never too fit to get hit”. The new television “Kung Flu” ad will appear on screen from April 13.

(NISG)1 spokesperson and virologist, Dr Lance Jennings says influenza is a serious disease and can be fatal especially for people who have long term health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease, kidney disease and most cancers as they are most at risk of complications.

“Immunisation is our best protection – influenza is easily spread and anyone can catch it. Even though it still feels like summer, it’s important to be immunised before winter as it can take up to two weeks from immunisation to develop immunity,” explains Dr Jennings.

ENDS


Background Information on Influenza:

Influenza is a potentially serious viral infection – much worse than a cold. Complications of the illness can last for weeks, often confines you to bed and can carry the risk of longer term illness or death.

The influenza vaccine available in New Zealand cannot give you influenza as the vaccine does not contain any live viruses.

The influenza virus changes each year so it’s important that people are immunised annually to gain protection from the strains most likely to circulate.

Even when you are immunised you should practise good hygiene to prevent the spread of the infection. 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.

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

1National Influenza Strategy Group (NISG)
NISG was formed in 2000 by the Ministry of Health to increase public awareness of influenza, its seriousness and the importance of immunisation to prevent the disease.

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