18 Mar 2020

Government adds 400,000 more flu vaccines this year

10:39 am on 18 March 2020

The government is starting this year's flu vaccination programme about two weeks early to improve the ability to manage higher demand at hospitals due to the coronavirus.

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Photo: 123rf

It has said 400,000 more flu vaccines would be available this season.

Health Minister David Clark said New Zealand was effectively at "war" with Covid-19, and the government was prioritising the health of the most vulnerable.

Free flu vaccines will be available from GP clinics and selected pharmacies for people aged 65 and over, pregnant women, people with certain chronic conditions, and young children with a history of severe respiratory illness.

Healthcare workers will receive a free vaccine from their employer.

Dr Clark encouraged people to get their flu vaccine early this year to protect themselves, family, and colleagues against the spread of the flu.

"While the flu vaccine will not protect you against Covid-19 it will help to 'flatten the curve' of demand on our hospitals this winter," Dr Clark said.

"It's critical that we do all we can to prevent a bad flu season this year. The flu causes significant strain on our health system and more people vaccinating against flu will ensure health services are there for those who need them most."

Associate Minister of Health Julie Anne Genter said, as expected, there was huge global demand for the flu vaccine this year and Pharmac had done well to secure more doses than ever.

"We can all agree that we need to protect our health workers. They are interacting with sick people every day, and more than ever we need them to be well to ensure our health system is prepared to fight Covid-19," she said.

Healthcare workers eligible for vaccines from their employers will include aged care workers, as well as doctors, nurses and hospital staff.

The government also launched a major public health campaign 'Unite Against Covid-19" to educate New Zealanders about steps people can take to help prevent the spread of the virus.

Dr Clark said it was a simple call to action.

"Now is the time for New Zealanders to come together, support each other and do the things that can help slow the spread of the virus," he said.

"We are reminding people of the simple actions they can take to fight Covid-19 - washing and drying hands frequently, coughing and sneezing into your elbow, staying at home if you are sick and looking after each other especially the elderly and vulnerable.

"We know these actions will help slow the spread of Covid-19 and we know this campaign will remind people to do the right thing."

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs)

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