Free flu vaccines for more Cantabrians this year – new to under 18s

Monday April 4, 2011

​​​​Canterbury has taken plenty of knocks in the last six months and health leaders are encouraging Cantabrians to get vaccinated against the flu to stay strong through this winter period.

As a New Zealand first, Canterbury residents aged under 18 years are eligible for free flu vaccine this season. This shows the Canterbury Health system’s desire to protect our community against avoidable illnesses.

Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, Dr Ramon Pink says the flu season has begun in Canterbury with several cases already confirmed.

Damage from the September 4 and February 22 earthquakes has changed a lot of Cantabrian’s living conditions that will make them more vulnerable to catching the flu.

“The concern this winter is that because of the earthquake many of us are living much closer together in more crowded houses and in improvised office spaces and classrooms, Dr Pink says.

“Some homes might also be colder this winter, increasing the impact of flu on people who are more likely to develop complications. Children are especially vulnerable. There is benefit to both preschool aged children who are vaccinated and their families. With older school aged children sharing campuses and buses and good hand hygiene being more difficult to practice, the flu virus can spread more easily between people.

“We urge all people living in Canterbury to think about their families this winter and get vaccinated. A lot of people may feel a bit run down after the earthquake and the stress that has resulted. This makes them more prone to getting viruses like the flu. Even if you had a vaccination last year, you still need to have another one. It takes two weeks before the vaccination protects you from the flu, so best to get it done now. All you need to do is make an appointment at your local general practice.”

The vaccine is already free to people aged over 65 years old, those under 65 years with a chronic health condition, as well as pregnant women.

ENDS

Background information:

I heard it was going to be free for everyone?

The Canterbury District Health Board has carefully considered this option but the Ministry of Health and the District Health Board has agreed it is most appropriate to concentrate on providing the vaccine to those most vulnerable. We still encourage everyone to get a vaccine.

Why has the Canterbury DHB chosen to extend it to those aged under 18 years?

Evidence suggests those aged over 65 years and aged under 18 years are most susceptible to influenza. The vaccine is already free to pregnant women and anyone aged over 65 years, or with a chronic health. By extending it to those aged under 18 years, it will protect Canterbury people even more thoroughly. The amount of flu in the community will be halved if 20 percent of those aged under 18 year olds are vaccinated this season.

What happens if I’ve already paid to have my under 18 year old vaccinated?

The free vaccination programme is from today April 4 to July 31.

Who is paying for the extra vaccinations for those aged under 18 years?

The Canterbury District Health Board is covering the cost of administering vaccinations and the Ministry of Health is paying for the vaccine.

Why should I get the flu vaccine if it’s not free for me too?

Many Canterbury businesses offer the vaccine free to their employees and it is also free to all health care workers. Cantabrians are encouraged to take up the opportunity to get the vaccine whatever way it is offered as it’s so important we all try and stay healthy this winter, particularly given that living conditions for many of us have changed, increasing the impact of flu and the chances of developing complications from it. Having the flu vaccine is a smart step towards being responsible for your own health as well as the health of your family.

If my family has relocated outside Canterbury, will they receive a vaccination?

This programme is only available to those people living in Canterbury.​

Page last reviewed: 14 February 2014
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