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Free Flu Immunisation Ends July 31

Free Flu Immunisation Ends July 31

New Zealanders eligible for free influenza immunisation have less than a week left to be vaccinated before the Government-subsidised campaign ends for this year on July 31.

The National Influenza Specialist Group (NISG)1 says a record 1.25 million doses of vaccine have been distributed already this year resulting in an estimated 29 percent of the population receiving immunisation (as at July 5).

NISG says that it is pleased to see health professionals are also leading by example this season. More than 80 per cent of GPs surveyed in the latest New Zealand Doctor/IMS Health fax poll have been vaccinated in 2013, and most (65 per cent) estimate more than three-quarters of the staff at their practice have been too.

“Many vulnerable people are, however, still unprotected, and this is a concern as we are seeing more cases of influenza in the community now,” comments Dr Lance Jennings, a virologist and spokesperson for NISG.

“People, especially those at greatest risk from flu complications or those in contact with people who are at high risk from flu, should be immunised as soon as possible. Influenza cases traditionally begin to rise sharply at this time of year and it can take up to two weeks to develop protection after vaccination.”

Influenza vaccinations are free from a doctor or nurse for New Zealanders until the end of July if you are in one of these groups:

·        People aged 65 and over
·        Anyone under 65 years of age (including children) with long-term health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease (including asthma), kidney disease and most cancers
Pregnant women
Children aged from six months and up to five years of age who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness or have a history of significant respiratory illness.

Anyone who wants to be immunised against influenza after July 31 will have to pay a small charge to get it from their doctor, nurse or in some pharmacies.

Dr Jennings says influenza shouldn’t be confused with common colds or other respiratory viruses often seen at this time of year. Influenza is a serious disease, especially for people with underlying medical conditions. It can make their condition much worse and lead to hospitalisation and even death. Influenza usually has symptoms such as a sudden onset of illness, high fever, headache, a dry cough and illness usually lasts 7-10 days.

He says that three types of influenza virus currently in circulation are covered by the 2013 seasonal influenza vaccine.

“Contrary to a widely-held myth, you cannot get influenza from the vaccine, as it does not contain any live virus. Unfortunately some people may be incubating a common cold when vaccinated and then develop respiratory symptoms due to a non-influenza virus.”

For free health advice, call Healthline 0800 611 116.  For advice about influenza immunisation visit www.fightflu.co.nz or text FLU to 515.

ENDS

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