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More Kiwis keen on influenza vaccine

More Kiwis keen on influenza vaccine

The total number of influenza vaccine doses distributed in New Zealand throughout the 2008 influenza season was 756,750 - a 1.5% increase on the total for the 2007 season (745,189), reports the National Influenza Strategy Group (NISG)1. Although NISG’s free influenza vaccine campaign for eligible groups ended on June 30, the group still urges people to see their doctor or nurse for a vaccination as influenza is currently circulating in most communities and peak activity has not yet occurred.

Anyone who wants influenza immunisation after June 30, when the subsidised programme ends, can get it for around $25 from their GP or nurse.

“Nationally, we’re seeing an influenza consultation rate of about 92 per 100,000 population which is higher than at the same time last year (ESR Surveillance Report week ending July 25 2). Both Influenza A/Brisbane and B/Florida strains have been identified. Immunisation with this season’s influenza vaccine, will decrease the risk of illness if infected by these strains. So, we would strongly advise people to get a vaccination as soon as possible to protect themselves from this serious disease,” advises virologist and NISG spokesman, Dr Lance Jennings.

Influenza immunisation is recommended for people 65 years and over or people under 65 with a long-term health condition such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease, kidney disease and most cancers and it is free for these groups from a doctor or nurse between March and June 30 each year.

“The overall increase in vaccine uptake this season is good but we are concerned that too few people with chronic health conditions may not have been protected by influenza vaccine. It is vital that they get the vaccine soon as it takes up to two weeks to develop immunity,” comments Dr Jennings.

NISG chair Anna-Marie Frost says the new “Kung Flu” promotional campaign seemed to spur people along to their doctor early in the season but the early rush was not sustained.

“It’s good to see that many elderly people are getting into the habit of annual immunisation, however we really need to increase immunisation among people with chronic conditions as they are most at risk from the serious complications of influenza,” she comments.

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 permanent damage or death.

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

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.

You can only be immune to a particular strain of the virus if you’ve had it before. And, as the virus strains keep changing each year, most people are unlikely to have natural immunity. That’s why annual immunisation is important to provide protection from the strains most likely to circulate in New Zealand. The inactivated influenza vaccine provides the best protection against influenza.

The influenza vaccine composition for New Zealand for 2008 is:

an A/Solomon Islands/3/2006 (H1N1)-like virus; an A/Brisbane/10/2007 (H3N2)-like virus; a B/Florida/4/2006-like virus.

For further information go to www.influenza.org.nz or www.moh.govt.nz

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.

2 ESR Surveillance report


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