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Doctors, nurses, pharmacists debunk myths about flu vaccine

Fact vs. Fiction – doctors, nurses and pharmacists debunk myths about flu vaccine

17 May 2017, AUCKLAND, NZ: Health experts are calling for people to ignore common misconceptions about the flu vaccine in an effort to reduce the number of New Zealanders getting the flu this winter.

Around one in four New Zealanders gets the flu each year, taking an average of around four sick days off work, at a cost of $1.4 billion to the New Zealand economy[1]. For some, the illness can be fatal and the high number of people suffering severe flu symptoms each year is placing pressure on hospitals and doctor’s clinics throughout the country.

Even those who don’t present symptoms can be carriers of the virus and easily infect others, which has a serious flow-on effect to the wider community with around 31,850 people visiting a doctor[2] each year.

For the past five years’ pharmacists have been giving flu vaccinations, without an appointment, improving accessibility to those who may struggle to arrange a visit to their GP. For the first time this year, local pharmacists can also administer free flu vaccinations nationally to pregnant women, and those 65 years and older in a move to increase awareness and improve uptake for those who are most vulnerable.

In addition, people with certain long term medical conditions can visit their medical centre for a free vaccination from a nurse or GP.

Green Cross Health, the group behind Unichem, Life Pharmacy and The Doctors medical centres, aims to help keep New Zealanders healthy this winter.

Green Cross Health Group Manager, Professional Services, Alison Van Wyk says “There remains a large proportion of New Zealanders who are not getting the flu vaccination and who could benefit from accessing it.

“We know that people are leading increasingly busy lives so we’ve made it as easy as possible for people to get protected, with flu shots available from around 200 Unichem and Life pharmacies and from The Doctors medical centres.”

This season, Green Cross Health is addressing common myths surrounding the flu vaccine to better educate Kiwis on the benefits of protecting their families.

Ms Van Wyk says, “There are several commonly-held beliefs stopping people from getting their vaccine, placing them at unnecessary risk of falling ill and taking them out of work, sports and other commitments. Spreading the facts about flu is something we’re focusing on to support the Ministry of Health’s campaign and to protect Kiwis this winter.”

Go to to find a participating Unichem, Life Pharmacy or The Doctors medical centre.

Editor’s notes

Top five myths about the flu

1. You can catch the flu from the flu shot: False. The flu vaccine does not contain live strains of the virus and as such it cannot infect you. This misconception may stem from the fact that it takes around two weeks for your body to form protective antibodies to the vaccine so it can fully protect you[3].

2. Fit, young and healthy people don’t need to worry: False. The flu can affect anybody, causing severe symptoms regardless of health, fitness levels or age. The more people who are vaccinated, the less transmission of the flu occurs and the better protected our overall population is.

3. Pregnant women can’t get a flu shot: False. In fact, pregnant women should get a flu shot as soon as possible, helping to protect their baby for their first few months of their life when they are not yet old enough to get a flu shot themselves, yet are very susceptible to infection. Pregnant women are eligible for a free flu vaccine at their local pharmacy or GP clinic.

4. I already had a vaccine last year, so I’m safe: False. The flu strains in circulation change each year, so it is important to get a fresh vaccination at the start of the flu season (between April and May) to ensure you’re protected against the latest virus. Immunity also decreases over time so annual vaccinations are necessary.

5. Man flu isn’t real: The jury’s still out. According to a study by Stanford University School of Medicine, men may suffer more when struck down by the flu, because high levels of testosterone can weaken their immune response. Women generally had a stronger antibody response to the flu shot, giving them greater protection against the virus[4].
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[1] Southern Cross Wellness in the Workplace Survey 2015
[2] SHIVERS Serosurvey 2015
[3] Misconceptions about seasonal flu and flu vaccines, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
[4] In men, high testosterone can mean weakened immune response, study finds

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