Global delay in international influenza vaccine

Media release

10 March 2015

The Ministry of Health is working closely with PHARMAC, vaccine suppliers, DHBs and PHOs to make sure this year’s influenza immunisation campaign rolls out smoothly this April following the global delay in the vaccine, says Chief Medical Officer at the Ministry of Health, Dr Don Mackie.

“This year’s Southern Hemisphere vaccines contain two new strains, to give better protection against the influenza strains that have been circulating around the world through the Northern Hemisphere winter. We hope the improved Southern Hemisphere vaccines will avoid the difficulties the US, United Kingdom and Europe have had with a poor match for the H3N2 component of the vaccine. “

“The unavoidable outcome of the addition of the new strains is a delay in the vaccines’ manufacture by a few weeks. The Ministry of Health expects it will be arriving at General Practices in early April."

“This is well in advance of the usual seasonal increase in influenza illness in June, but it means that General Practices will be busier than usual in April and May.”

The Ministry’s target is 1.2 million doses over the course of the influenza season, which generally ends on 31 July.

“Influenza A H3N2 has been the dominant strain in the Northern Hemisphere in the last few months, and it’s likely it will come to New Zealand this winter. We know that this strain of influenza hits those aged over 65 the hardest. The health sector is already preparing to ensure that New Zealanders have the best protection available against influenza.”

Influenza vaccination is about 73 percent effective in preventing infection with influenza A and B viruses in healthy adults under 65 years of age, when there is a good match between vaccine and circulating influenza strains.

Information about this year’s influenza vaccine is available at www.fightflu.co.nz and www.influenza.org.nz

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