August 13, 2013
Canterbury tops being flu strong
Canterbury is the national champion when it comes to being flu strong.
A record 207,860 influenza vaccinations have been distributed in Canterbury (or around 42 percent of the population have been vaccinated against influenza) during this year’s Government-subsidised vaccine campaign period. The results put Canterbury at the top of the leader board, taking out first place for the most vaccinations out of all 20 DHBs.
The impressive vaccination rate positively coincides with a lower number of identified influenza cases than usual for this time of year.
A total of 25 people had been admitted to hospital for influenza like illness up to July 31 this year compared to 392 for the same period last year.
Dr Ramon Pink, Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, says the higher rates of vaccination are very encouraging as the more people who are immune, the harder it is for the influenza virus to take hold.
“People, especially those at greatest risk from influenza complications or those in contact with people who are at high risk from influenza, should be immunised as soon as possible. Influenza cases traditionally begin to rise sharply at this time of year, and although numbers are currently low now, we shouldn’t take that for granted,” Dr Pink says.
“It can take up to two weeks to develop protection after vaccination.”
Influenza vaccine was free until the end of July for New Zealanders at high risk of complications - pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, and people of any age with long-term health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease (including serious asthma), kidney disease and most cancers. In Canterbury it was also free to under 18s – an initiative CDHB brought in to help protect the fragile population following the Canterbury earthquakes.
“We know 74 percent of over 65s and 33 percent of under 18s have received their flu vaccine this year.”
The vaccine is still available for a small cost from General Practice Teams and some pharmacists.
Canterbury has also had a record year for protecting the people who work in the health system from getting flu.
A total of 6811 (76 percent) CDHB staff received their flu vaccine this year. Last year 5993 or 59 percent of staff received their vaccine.
The total number of vaccines distributed across New Zealand this year is a record 1,253,790, as of 31 July.
The Ministry of Health and the National Influenza Strategy Group (NISG) advise New Zealanders to take the following steps to keep themselves and their family/whanau safe from influenza this winter:
• Get an influenza vaccination
• Wash and dry your hands often
• Stay away from people who are sick
• Stay away from work and school if you’re unwell
• Cover your coughs and sneezes.
For advice about influenza immunisation visit www.fightflu.co.nz or text FLU to 515