The Ministry of Health continues to encourage New Zealanders to get their flu vaccine, especially as we move into the chilly winter months.
There is currently still a good supply of Southern Hemisphere vaccines distributed across the country that New Zealanders, especially those considered vulnerable to the flu, have access to.
In addition to the 1.76 million Southern Hemisphere vaccines, the Ministry of Health and Pharmac have successfully secured a further 360,000 doses of influenza vaccine from the Northern Hemisphere.
These have arrived in New Zealand and will be ready for providers to order later this week and distribution next week.
The vaccine is approved for use among healthy people aged 3 to 64 and will be available to purchase through general practices, pharmacies and occupational health services.
The Influvac Tetra (Saison 19/20) Northern Hemisphere vaccine contains two of the same strains of influenza vaccine as the usual vaccines used in New Zealand this year, and one that is closely related.
Because of the way influenza changes as it circulates around the world, the fourth strain in the Northern Hemisphere is not a close match for the equivalent strain in the Southern Hemisphere. The expert advice is clear that the protection provided by the Northern Hemisphere vaccine is still valuable and that is why we have purchased it so that even more New Zealanders can receive a flu vaccine this year.
The Ministry of Health will provide advice to immunisation providers on ensuring they prioritise and retain some stocks of the Southern hemisphere vaccine in their store for priority groups such as pregnant women, older people and people with pre-existing conditions. This is because these people are only able to receive the Southern Hemisphere vaccine and they are the people most susceptible to the flu.
The vaccine remains free for eligible groups.
In addition to this the Ministry has retained 20,000 Southern Hemisphere vaccines in its central store should it be required for priority groups over the coming months.