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MidCentral DHB chief medical officer Dr Kelvin Billinghurst says it is important that people who are high-risk prepare for winter by getting their flu vaccine and Covid-19 boosters as soon as possible.
“Flu season is kicking off, the days are starting to get colder, and we’re going to see the flu make its way through the community.”
Billinghurst says that the upcoming flu season is expected to be particularly difficult.
“Some people can get very sick when they catch the flu – in most years, influenza hospitalises thousands of people, and some people die.
“After two years of lockdowns, mandates and social distancing measures in place, the flu hasn’t really had a chance to take hold. With the borders opening, we will be exposed to the circulating flu virus from overseas which is a serious concern for those who are vulnerable,” says Billinghurst.
“Receiving an annual flu jab is important because immunity wanes over time, and the vaccine changes to respond to the circulating influenza viruses at the time.”
He says it is safe to receive the flu vaccine alongside your Covid-19 vaccine.
Waikato DHB is also encouraging people to get vaccinated against the flu this winter.
“Our borders being closed for two years protected us from influenza, but now they’ve re-opened we will be exposed to new flu variants along with other viruses such as measles,” says Dr Felicity Dumble, Waikato DHB medical officer of health.
“Disease outbreaks can have serious consequences for families and communities. Those who are not immunised, whether that’s by choice or other circumstances, are worse affected by these outbreaks.”
The flu vaccine is available free of charge across New Zealand for a number of people, including those over 65 years old, Māori and Pacific people aged 55 and over, adults with health conditions such as asthma and diabetes, children aged four years or under with a history of significant respiratory illness, and pregnant women.
Those who don’t qualify for the funded vaccine can pay to be vaccinated through their GP, pharmacists and other private immunisation providers.