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Plunket encourages Kiwis to take advantage of free vaccine

Plunket encourages Kiwis to stay healthy with free winter flu vaccine


New Zealand’s largest provider of services to support the well-being of children under five is encouraging New Zealanders at greatest risk of catching influenza to get immunized this winter, and protect themselves from the illness for free.

The government yesterday announced the free winter flu vaccine programme will be extended to the end of August as winter flu cases are rising and have yet to peak.

The vaccination is free to those at greatest risk of serious influenza complications, including those over the age of 65, pregnant women, people with on-going health conditions such as asthma, and children under five years who have been hospitalized for a respiratory illness.

“This is a chance for New Zealanders who have yet to be immunized to protect themselves from a serious illness”, says Plunket clinical advisor Allison Jamieson. “Influenza kills around 400 New Zealanders, directly or indirectly, each year – so it’s not something we should take lightly”.

“We strongly advise expectant mums to get the free vaccination. Babies under 6 months old are too young to be immunised so if their mums are vaccinated they can pass protection on to their baby.

“A lot of changes occur in a woman’s body during pregnancy. Changes to lung function, changes to immunity and increased heart output and oxygen consumption place pregnant woman at particularly high risk of severe complications. Pregnant women with other medical conditions are at even greater risk of severe influenza-related illness”.

The government is reporting that A-H1N1 appears to be the most common strain of influenza which affects adults and young children more severely than other strains. The winter flu vaccine covers the A-H1N1 strain.

The vaccine was due to be funded until 31 July and is now available until the end of August.

People who are not eligible for the free vaccine can purchase it from their general practitioner or selected pharmacies.

For more information visit www.fightflu.co.nz or www.health.govt.nz or call 0800 IMMUNE 0800 466 863.

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