Flu vaccinations available until August 31, just as flu numbers are rising
Canterbury District Health Board says it’s great news that flu vaccinations are now available until 31 August. They are free for pregnant women, people 65 and over and those with chronic illnesses (such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, mental health issues etc).
In Canterbury only, they will also be free for under 18s until the end of August.
Dr Alistair Humphrey, Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, says that influenza infections can peak in August or September in New Zealand.
“This extra time gives people more opportunity to get vaccinated and protect themselves and their whānau before that happens. Don’t wait until flu numbers start to climb in Canterbury as they already have in other parts of the South Island – the best possible immunity takes up to two weeks to develop so the sooner you get vaccinated, the sooner you will be protected.
General practices are busy at this time of year so it is best to call ahead and book a time for yours and your family’s flu shot.”
Some recent research suggests that 40 percent of New Zealanders think they are fit and healthy enough to ride out or even fight off flu. Anecdotally, people who have actually had flu recently are often first in line to get vaccinated the following year.
“We could all learn from the wisdom of our elders: Three quarters of over 65s get vaccinated each year, probably because they have had flu before and don’t want to repeat the experience,” says Dr Humphrey.
“Flu is a serious and sometimes severe illness well worth avoiding and can hit young and healthy people hard as well as the people they may have passed it on to. Imagine how it would feel knowing you were the one that brought it home, to work or to school?”
“Getting vaccinated now could spare you an unpleasant week off work and probably more time off later looking after a sick partner or children. Even if you are prepared to play ‘flu roulette’ yourself, think about others - if you can’t get it you can’t give it,” he says.
“If you do gamble on avoiding flu and lose, please stay at home – stay warm, drink plenty of fluids and take paracetamol for pain and fever. Phone your usual general practice team number for advice or help if you need it, out of hours a registered nurse will take your call and advise you what to do.
“Whatever you do, don’t visit someone in hospital or a rest home while you are sick. No one will thank you for bringing them flu and our earthquake damaged Canterbury hospitals would struggle to cope if it spread.
“We are asking people to do what they can to stay out of hospital so services are available for people who have no choice but to be there. One of the simplest things you can do to help is to have your flu vaccination,” Dr Humphrey says.