9 Apr 2020

Covid-19: Free flu vaccines encouraged for vulnerable, health workers

6:44 am on 9 April 2020

Frontline health staff and vulnerable people are being urged to take up a free flu vaccine to reduce burdens on hospitals as the health system deals with the Covid-19 coronavirus.

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Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

The government has extended the time period for priority groups to get influenza vaccines free of charge until 27 April, before they are made available to the general public.

This includes over-65 year olds, pregnant people, those with particular chronic conditions, young children with respiratory illnesses, and frontline health workers. (See a full list here)

  • If you have symptoms of the coronavirus, call the NZ Covid-19 Healthline on 0800 358 5453 (+64 9 358 5453 for international SIMs) or call your GP - don't show up at a medical centre

Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter said there must be a reduction in the amount of other preventable illness to help deal with Covid-19.

"It's of extra importance this year because we want to take as much pressure off the health system as possible this winter," Genter said.

"The government is very keen to make sure all the people that are most at risk of being hospitalised with the flu and those frontline health workers who we need to be able to take care of people get their vaccine."

Genter said the timeframe had been extended to make sure as many people as possible within the priority groups were vaccinated.

"Demand has actually been very high. I would say it's because people are so aware of the health risks of Covid-19 it seems that they're more aware of the importance of getting the flu vaccine as well, so that's good, and encouraging."

Genter said an issue where some providers had run out of stock was being addressed.

"Some providers ordered more vaccine than they were able to administer while others have run out.

"The Ministry of Health are now more actively managing flu vaccine stocks to ensure priority groups can access them and they are going where they are most needed. There is no point vaccines sitting around unused.

"Any health provider that does not have sufficient supply for priority groups is encouraged to contact their DHB immunisation coordinator so more stock can be arranged."

Genter said a total of 1.8 million vaccines would be available this year, 30 percent more than last year, which was itself a record.

Accessing healthcare - like getting a vaccine - is an essential service and travel to do so is allowed, but please call your doctor and arrange a time for an appointment first.

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

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