With winter looming, Friday 1 April marks the start date for the Influenza Vaccination programme here in Northland to protect against the most common flu strains entering our community.
Influenza (or the Flu) symptoms can include fever, chills, aches, runny nose, a cough and stomach upset and spreads quickly from person to person.
The strains of the virus that cause the flu constantly change, so having had the virus before does not stop you from getting it again. Each year, the vaccine formulation is reviewed and updated to keep up with changing flu viruses.
Northland DHB medical officer of health Dr Bart Willems, cardiologist Dr Marcus Lee and paediatrician Dr Ailsa Tuck all recommend Northlanders protect themselves and their whānau from getting the virus by getting vaccinated.
Dr Willems said after two years of strict border controls in New Zealand, they expect an influx of visitors into our region in the coming months, which will increase the risk of importing Influenza into Northland.
“The vaccination also helps reduce the spread to those more vulnerable and unable to get vaccinated.”
Dr Tuck said it is important people are up to date with all their routine immunisations.
“We are particularly worried this winter, as our baseline immunisation rates are low, and we haven’t been exposed to many of the infections that normally circulate when our borders are open. This means our immune systems haven’t had as much practice as usual. Young children, hapū Māmā, those living with chronic conditions, and our elderly are most vulnerable. Immunising pregnant women will make Mum and baby much safer.
“Please encourage those that are eligible to get the influenza immunisation. This is particularly important for kids with asthma, those prone to chest infections or living with chronic medical conditions.”
People aged 65 or over, pregnant māmās or those who have a health condition such as diabetes or heart disease are at greater risk of being affected by Influenza.
And children aged four years or under who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness, measles or have a history of significant respiratory illness are also at greater risk from Influenza.
All eligible people can be vaccinated for free at their general practice (GP), a vaccinating pharmacy or Māori Health Provider.
Eligibility this year will also open up to include Māori and Pacific people aged 55 years and over.
The Flu vaccine can be given simultaneously or immediately before or after the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine and the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine - there is no gap needed between the two different vaccinations.
It is important to get immunised if you are a health or disability care worker or frontline worker.
Northland DHB offers free vaccinations to all staff, contractors, students and volunteers on their sites and suggests you check with your employer to see if they will offer to cover the vaccination cost.
Book your flu vaccination at your GP, a participating pharmacy or Māori Health Provider now.