Only one month left for those eligible to get free influenza vaccination

Friday July 1, 2011

​​​Time is running out for people who are eligible to get their free influenza vaccination.

Leading international virologist and Clinical Associate Professor of Virology and Serology for the Canterbury District Health Board, Dr Lance Jennings says there’s only one month for eligible people to take advantage of the free vaccination.

Dr Jennings is advising Cantabrians not to be complacent about influenza this year and says although we’ve had a quiet season so far, the situation could change very quickly.

“The usual peak for influenza is July and August. So far this year we have followed the traditional pattern and level of influenza cases. Even if we continue along this path we will see an increase in people catching the flu in the next two months,” Dr Jennings says.

The number of people hospitalised with influenza like illnesses for the 2010-2011 financial year was 56. This compares to 132 (2009-2010) and 109 (2008-2009) people hospitalised respectively for the two previous financial years.

“Given the more challenging living conditions that many of us in Canterbury are enduring and the effect of stress on our immune systems, it is entirely possible for the flu to reach the high levels seen during the pandemic in 2009,” he says.

Influenza strains appearing in the community to date are H1N1 (pandemic swine flu), H3N2 and B. This year’s seasonal vaccine protects against all three.

“Influenza H3N2 is particularly serious for older folk while the B strain is of special concern for younger age groups. We already know influenza can be fatal, especially for people with chronic health conditions,” Dr Jennings says.

In an effort to address post-earthquake living conditions, including the arrival of winter weather and the reduction of available hospital beds, influenza vaccinations are free to all Cantabrians from six months to under 18-years of age. People 65-years and over, those with chronic illness and pregnant women also qualify for a free vaccination. The offer finishes on July 31 and it takes two weeks after the vaccination before you are fully protected.

Make an appointment with your general practice team to get the influenza vaccination now. For advice about influenza immunisation visit www.fightflu.co.nz or text FLU to 515.​

Page last reviewed: 14 February 2014
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