Influenza vaccination levels hit near record levels
PHARMAC has distributed over 1.26 million doses of the influenza vaccine this winter.
Director of Operations of Lisa Williams said this was the highest number of vaccines to have been distributed so early in winter.
“The vaccine takes up to two weeks to be effective so it’s great that health providers have been encouraging people to get in early before winter really hits. We really want to thank GPs and community health providers for doing such an amazing job of encouraging vaccination,” Lisa Williams said.
This high level of demand means that while many general practices, health providers, and pharmacies have vaccines available, the national stockpile is now running low.
“We would much rather have vaccines out in the community than sitting in a national stockpile.”
Because the national stockpile is now running low PHARMAC is co-ordinating with the Ministry of Health to ask health providers to target the vaccines they have in their stores to people most at risk.
“It’s great to have a big uptake in the community and now we need to focus on the groups most at risk, such as pregnant women.”
There is still adequate stock of the funded brand of the paediatric influenza vaccine, Fluarix Tetra. Providers are asked to continue to target this to children between 6 and 35 months of age.
The number of vaccines that has been distributed is higher than the total number of influenza vaccines distributed in 2016 and 2017 and nearly as many as the total for all of last winter when 1.3 million doses were distributed.
PHARMAC has been working closely with suppliers for several weeks on whether it is possible to source more vaccine.
These vaccines need to have the correct influenza strains for New Zealand they need to be sourced from another Southern Hemisphere market. At this time it is unlikely that more influenza vaccine supplies can be obtained.
Demand for the influenza vaccine is an international issue; Australia has also experienced very high demand this year, and unfortunately there is no surplus stock available for us to source from Australia.