More than a third of Cantabrians have had their flu immunisation already this winter and there's still time for the rest of us to protect ourselves.
Recent data shows that 184,610 flu vaccines have been distributed so far this flu season – more than the totals taken at the end of the season for the previous three years. This is equivalent to 36 percent of the population and puts Canterbury at the top of the country for distributed vaccines.
Canterbury District Health Board Medical Officer of Health Dr Ramon Pink says, "It's encouraging how many people have had their flu shots already but we can still do better.
"We would like to see much higher numbers with our Māori population, particularly our kaumātua over 65 who are funded for free shots and can set a good example for the rest of their whanau."
Dr Pink says that there is a window of opportunity that people should jump on.
"So far this winter our flu numbers have been flat but from mid to late July we typically start to see the numbers rise. The flu shot can take up to two weeks to start protecting you so people should really get in now and urge their loved ones to do the same."
This year's vaccines for New Zealand have been developed to offer protection against the strain that circulated in the Northern Hemisphere during their winter, which lead to the worst flu season in nearly a decade. Around 80 percent of people infected with the flu show minimal symptoms so can be spreading it to vulnerable whanāu and members of the community without realising.
Some groups qualify for free flu shots and flu immunisations are also available for a fee from general practices with some pharmacies also providing free and fee-paying immunisations.
"It's much easier staying well than getting better so I urge people to take every action they can to avoid catching or spreading the flu," says Dr Pink.
For more information, locations of pharmacies providing flu immunisations, and some fun activities to keep the kids entertained for at least ten minutes, check out our flu-free website flufree.co.nz
Note to Editors
Flu shots are free for certain Canterbury residents from your doctor, nurse or qualified vaccinating pharmacist if you're in one of these groups:
Anyone aged 65 years or over
Pregnant women (any stage of pregnancy).
Flu shots are free only from a doctor or nurse if you're in one of these groups:
People under 65 years of age (including children) with long-term health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease (including asthma that requires regular preventive therapy), kidney disease and most cancers
Children aged four and under who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness or have a history of significant respiratory illness.
Young people from six months to 17 years old years of age living in the Kaikōura and Hurunui areas (within the Canterbury District Health Board).
For more information on influenza visit flufree.co.nz
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