5 Apr 2018

Get flu vaccine early this year, experts say

5:03 pm on 5 April 2018

The latest flu vaccine has arrived in the country from Europe and experts are encouraging people to have their annual flu jab early.

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Photo: 123rf

The director of the Auckland University Immunisation Advisory Centre, Nikki Turner, said the flu was not expected until June or July but now was a good time to be vaccinated.

"It is important that people go and get it within the next four to six weeks because it takes one to two weeks for your immunity to build up after a vaccine."

The vaccine is available this week except for children under three - they must wait another two weeks for theirs to arrive.

The past two flu seasons in New Zealand were mild but that wasn't the experience of parts of Australia or the northern hemisphere.

Influenza advisers said this year's vaccine contained two new strains: One was a new A(H3N2), matched to protect against the Australian and northern hemisphere flu strains common last winter.

"The New Zealand vaccine this year has changed one of the As and one of the B strains within this vaccine, so we are expecting and hoping that we will have a better match this year towards those strains," Dr Turner said.

However, it was impossible to predict what would happen, she said.

Each year about 1.2 million doses of flu vaccine are distributed in New Zealand. It is free for those aged 65 and over, pregnant women and people with medical conditions such as diabetes or chronic heart problems, who are at greater risk of serious flu complications. Others pay about $20 to $30.

Dr Turner stressed the vaccine was important for groups such as pregnant women, the elderly and those working in hospitals.

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