3 Apr 2023

Vaccine hesitancy still an issue with disinformation circling on social media - GP

12:27 pm on 3 April 2023
The vaccine roll-out for 5 to 11-year-olds started on Monday after Medsafe approved the Pfizer paediatric vaccination last month.

File image. Photo: Getty Picture Alliance

Vaccine hesitancy remains a concern for medical professionals as the flu shot and Covid-19 booster become available to get together ahead of winter.

Vaccination events were held at the weekend, where Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Health Minister Ayesha Verrall both got jabbed.

General Practice New Zealand chairperson and Porirua general practitioner Dr Bryan Betty said getting both vaccines at the same time does not present any risks.

Those 30 and over, and younger people at higher risk of severe illness from Covid, can get the bivalent vaccine as long as it has been at least six months since their last booster or positive test.

The flu jab is free to people in high-risk categories, and available for anyone over the age of 6 months.

Betty told Morning Report vaccine hesitancy continued to be an issue - with disinformation circling on social media.

It was well-known that these viruses were dangerous, he said.

Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners medical director Dr Bryan Betty says there has been a lack of clarity around how the existing pilot funding model for GPs monitoring Covid-19 patients works and if it provides adequate funding for the work required.

General Practice New Zealand chairperson and Porirua general practitioner Dr Bryan Betty. Photo: Chris McKeen / Stuff

"We know that the flu, every year, kills about 500 New Zealanders if we have a full-on flu season. We know that Covid is potentially dangerous, especially to those at-risk groups, so yeah, it is a real worry - the social narrative.

"[The hesitancy] is certainly something we see in practice and is certainly something we end up having discussions with patients about."

Betty said the majority of patients did choose to have the vaccine, and that was "exactly the right way to go".

"Once you get these illnesses, although there is treatment, it can actually be very difficult sometimes, especially with the elderly or the older age groups, there is really the potential for poor outcomes."

Betty said another campaign about the dangers of these illnesses may help.

Hipkins got his injections at a community vaccination event in Upper Hutt on Saturday morning.

He said it was important eligible people got the jabs before winter arrived.

"It will actually leave them better prepared for the winter season, help to ease pressure on the health system as well.

"So there'll be more events like this happening around the country where our local community health providers will be encouraging people to get their flu jabs and their Covid boosters and I'd really encourage people to take up that opportunity."

Verrall also received both injections on Saturday and said many people would be able to get their flu and Covid booster shots at the same time.

There were currently more than 700,000 Covid vaccines and 800,000 flu jabs in the country, with more due to arrive, she said.

The Covid-19 booster is free of charge.

The flu vaccine is free for people aged 65 years and over, Māori and Pacific people aged 55 years and over, pregnant people, and people who have long-term conditions like diabetes, asthma, or heart conditions, children aged six months to 12 years old, and people with mental health and addiction issues.

Many New Zealand workplaces also fund a free flu vaccine for their employees.

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