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Flu vaccine a good match this year

September 1, 2011

Flu vaccine a good match this year

Virus specialist Dr Lance Jennings says that all three types of influenza virus currently in circulation (pandemic H1N1 09 (swine flu), H3N2 and B virus) are covered by the 2011 seasonal influenza vaccine.

“The vaccine is a good match this year and around 993,500 doses of vaccine were distributed in New Zealand this season which is the highest it’s been for a non-pandemic year. So those most at risk of complications from influenza should be well protected from influenza if they’ve been vaccinated,” says Dr Jennings who is a spokesperson for the National Influenza Strategy Group (NISG)1..

Dr Jennings was responding to the results of a survey released today by the Southern Cross Health Society which found that around one third of those surveyed in the 21-29 year old age group who didn't get the flu vaccination this year chose not to because they don't believe the vaccination will work.

“Influenza immunisation improves your body’s immunity and is your best protection against this serious disease. The effectiveness of vaccinating against the influenza virus is well established.”

Effectiveness of influenza vaccines depend primarily on the age and immune status of the recipient. For healthy adults under 65 years of age, and where there is a good match between the vaccine and circulating strains, effectiveness in preventing infection is usually 80 percent (CI 56-91 percent)2. For elderly persons living in the community, influenza vaccine is associated with a 26 percent (CI 12-38 percent) reduction in the risk of hospitalization for influenza or pneumonia and 42 percent (CI 24-55 percent) reduction in the risk of death3.

“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.

“We are also seeing close to normal levels of influenza activity in the community so far this season.”

Latest ESR general practice surveillance data shows a national consultation rate of 55.5 per 100 000 patient population (210 influenza-like-illness consultations) which indicates slightly above normal seasonal influenza activity.

Influenza vaccinations are free from medical practices until the end of July each year for New Zealanders in these groups:

• Pregnant women;
• 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.

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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