Influenza

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Influenza in New Zealand

Influenza (flu) can be a serious illness and poses a significant public health issue in New Zealand. Immunisation provides the best protection against flu, and demand for the vaccine in New Zealand is increasing.

Some people are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill if they catch flu, including people aged 65 and over, with chronic conditions like heart disease, cancer, diabetes and serious asthma; pregnant women, and young children with a history of serious respiratory illnesses. For these groups of people, the vaccination is free of charge through primary care providers and community pharmacy.

For further information on this disease’s symptoms and treatments go to Influenza.

2021 Influenza Immunisation Programme

Every year the Ministry of Health supports the running of an Influenza Immunisation Programme.

The Programme is designed to protect those at greatest risk of serious illness from influenza, who are eligible for a funded vaccination. Detailed information who is eligible for free vaccination can be found on the Fight Flu website.

The goals of the 2021 Influenza Immunisation programme remain the same as in 2020:

  • Vaccinate 75% of the population aged 65 and over
  • Improve influenza immunisation coverage for people aged under 65s with certain medical conditions, and for pregnant women
  • Improve influenza immunisation uptake for health care workers: vaccinate at least 80% of DHB health care workers.

Following the success of last year, we are also extending the Māori Influenza Vaccination programme to include measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccines for 2021, as part of our commitment to improving equity for Māori. 

Evaluation of last year’s programme: “More Than Just a Jab: Evaluation of the Māori Influenza Vaccination Programme as part of the COVID-19 Māori Health Response”. This programme contributes to He Korowai Oranga: Māori Health Strategy and has the overall aim of ensuring Māori enjoy high standards of health and wellbeing. 

Start date

The 2021 Influenza Immunisation Programme started on 14 April 2021, for people aged 65 and over. 

The programme for people aged under 65 starts on 17 May. 

We ask vaccinators to focus on immunising people eligible for a funded vaccine.

Why is the programme starting first for people aged 65 and over?

The programme start dates are based on information about vaccine availability. This year PHARMAC is funding a vaccine specifically made for people aged 65 and over, and this arrives in New Zealand first. If you are aged 65 and over, you can get immunised against flu for free from now through to the end of the programme, 31 December 2021.

Immunising health and disability care workers

As in previous years it is important health care and other frontline workers get immunised against influenza.

Occupational health providers can immunise such workforces from 14 April 2021 if aged 65 and over, or from 17 May if under 65 years of age. The Ministry’s target is that 80 percent of New Zealand’s health care workers are immunised against influenza each year.

Māori Influenza Vaccination Programme

In 2020, the Ministry ran the Māori Influenza Vaccination Programme (MIVP) as part of the initial COVID-19 Māori Health Response Plan, and we saw an increased number of kaumātua who made the decision to be immunised against influenza. This funding enabled providers to implement clinically safe, culturally responsive and community-centric influenza vaccination approaches that achieve the greatest possible outreach across their Māori population. Services may include pop-up clinics, drive-through vaccine stations, ‘door to door’ or other innovative services.

This year, we’re extending the programme to include influenza and measles immunisations. Our goal is to build on the successes of the 2020 programme, to increase immunisation among whānau Māori and address inequities between Māori and non-Māori rates of immunisation. This is being coordinated by providers and DHBs at a local level.

Information for immunisation providers

Improving vaccine supply and distribution for 2021

The Ministry of Health is working with PHARMAC and its health sector partners to plan for increased demand of the vaccine and ensure immunisation providers have more reliable access to it.

Health professionals - please focus on immunising people at higher risk and remind kaumatua of the importance of both the COVID-19 and influenza vaccine as the COVID-19 vaccine does not provide immunity for both COVID-19 and influenza. 

If a person has an appointment booked for COVID-19, they should get this first. If they don’t have an appointment booked for COVID-19 yet, they should get the flu vaccine first. 

Managing the two-week gap between influenza immunisation and COVID-19 immunisation

If a person is scheduled to have the COVID-19 immunisation within the next two weeks, they should have the influenza immunisation two weeks after their last COVID-19 immunisation dose. This will include aged residential care residents where COVID-19 vaccination for the facility is scheduled or imminent.

Where a person is not scheduled to have the COVID-19 immunisation in the next two weeks, they should have the influenza immunisation, followed by their COVID-19 immunisation at least two weeks after the influenza vaccine.

In May and June, both the COVID-19 and influenza immunisations will be available to a wider group of people within the same time frame. To overcome this complexity, we advise using one of the three-dose schedules below.

Schedule A – for people in who have a COVID-19 vaccination booked in the next two weeks

Day 0

Day 21

Day 35 (or later)

COVID-19 dose one

COVID-19 dose two

Influenza

Schedule B – for people who do not have a COVID-19 vaccination booked in the next two weeks

Day 0

Day 14 (or later)

Day 35 (ie 21 days after COVID-19 dose one)

Influenza

COVID-19 dose one

COVID-19 dose two

Vaccine supply

The vaccine (Fluad Quad) has been in high demand to support the successful start of the flu programme for those 65 years and over. Afluria Quad can also be used in people 65 years and over and it is funded for everyone in this group. 

HCL have notified the Ministry that there is no longer stock of Fluad Quad available for the North Island – providers should order Afluria Quad instead.

A reminder that Fluad Quad MUST NOT be given to a person under 65. It is only approved by Medsafe for people aged 65 and over. Please refer to the Medsafe website alert for more information.

This year, Influvac Tetra is available for use in children aged three and four years of age and Afluria Quad Junior will be available for children aged 6–35 months.   

Reimbursement arrangements for employee influenza vaccinations

We encourage health and disability care employers including DHBs to fund influenza immunisation programmes for their workforce.

The Ministry of Health will reimburse eligible employers of health and disability workers for the costs of immunising their staff against influenza. You can claim for reimbursement  through to 30 September 2021.

Claims should be submitted by filling out and sending the form below to [email protected]

Employers can claim costs incurred for influenza vaccination, as supported by appropriate documentation, to a maximum of $35+GST per person.

Eligibility for reimbursement

Reimbursement is available for health and disability sector employees, self-employed lead maternity carers, and carers employed under individualised funding arrangements who:

  • are not eligible for a funded vaccination under the eligibility criteria stated in the Pharmaceutical Schedule
  • have patient/client contact
  • have not previously been the recipient of an employer-funded influenza vaccination whilst in their current place of employment (not including one reimbursed by the Ministry of Health in 2020).

GST Invoice Template for Influenza Reimbursement (Excel, 22 KB)

Sector Working Group

The Ministry has established a sector working group to advise on the 2021 programme, with representatives from groups involved in key aspects of the immunisation programme.

The Ministry of Health commissioned a report into supply chain issues experienced in 2020. In response to this report a stakeholder workshop was held to identify actions to improve the influenza distribution and supply chain ahead of the 2021 programme. 

Improvements this year include working with PHARMAC and the supplier to increase supply and ensure a smoother distribution pathway, redevelopment of the promotional campaign and the establishment of a sector working group, which provides advice on operations and communications for the programme.

Read the Influenza Vaccine Supply Chain Report.

Recording the immunisation

Please continue to record the influenza immunisation in the National Immunisation Register, as you have in previous years.

Ordering vaccine and needles

Healthcare Logistics (HCL) will distribute influenza vaccine doses to immunisation providers for the 2021 programme.

Please visit HCL’s website for more information about ordering or contact HCL at [email protected].

PHARMAC and vaccine supplier Seqirus advise that two of the influenza vaccines – Fluad Quad and Afluria Quad – are ‘needleless presentations’ this year.

Please visit the Immunisation Advisory Centre’s website for health professionals for information about ordering needles for Fluad Quad and Afluria Quad.

Plenty of needles have been ordered to cover all the flu vaccine requirements this season. There are 2.4 million doses of flu vaccine for use in New Zealand this flu season and Seqirus advises 3.4 million needles have been ordered to ensure abundant supply.

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