Tāmaki Makaurau – New Zealand is ramping up the flu vaccination campaign, with 40 per cent more flu shots available this year as part of the covid pandemic winter plan.
New Zealand usually uses about 1.4 million flu vaccines a year. This year, two million jabs are available and the eligibility is for people to get vaccinated for free.
With the Omicron wave still working its way through the country, Kiwis need to protect our most vulnerable from getting the flu as well, and our health system from coming under more pressure.
Aotearoa has made the flu shot available for free for everyone over the age of 65 and for those who are pregnant or at risk of becoming seriously ill because of other underlying conditions.
This winter, on the advice of doctors, New Zealand is widening eligibility to include Māori and Pacific people aged 55 and over, which means an extra 39,000 people can have the vaccine for free.
In an ordinary year, flu kills more than 500 New Zealanders. And this is no ordinary year. Usually, about half the people eligible for free vaccination take it up. For the past two years, with the country closed to the rest of the world because of the covid pandemic, New Zealand has largely been free of colds and flu.
The flu jab programme has started around the country, with vaccinations available from family doctors, pharmacists and some Māori and Pacific health providers.
New Zealand is looking at ways to increase the vaccination workforce to get flu shots to those who need them. The country has trained and authorised many new pharmacist vaccinators over the past two years, including provisional pharmacist vaccinators who are able to administer the influenza vaccine.
The $12 million expansion programme is being funded from the government’s covid response and recovery fund.