Protect your whānau from flu this winter

9 April 2018

Now is the time to think about the best way to protect your family/whānau from influenza or the ‘flu’ this winter.

Flu vaccine will be arriving in surgeries and participating pharmacies in this week. April is the best time to get your annual flu shot or immunisation, so you're protected before flu season strikes in winter. You, or your family/whānau, may even qualify for a free flu shot.

And, yes, this year’s vaccines are expected to offer protection against the strain circulating in the Northern Hemisphere winter this season, and sometimes called the ‘Aussie flu’, that’s been in the media lately. To better match circulating viruses, the two funded quadrivalent influenza vaccines will contain four inactivated virus strains, specially formulated for the New Zealand 2018 season.

You can’t get flu from the vaccine because there are no live viruses in the vaccine.

The staff at Hauora Tairāwhiti will be vaccinated this week. Keeping vulnerable people safe is their highest priority.

Many people we care for are vulnerable and have weakened immune systems, says Obstetrician Dr Sean Pocock

“The elderly and very young children can become very ill with flu. If we pass on the virus, the consequences are often serious. The influenza virus can be anywhere. It is easy to catch through coughs and sneezes and by touching some surfaces. Being fit and healthy won’t stop you getting the flu”.

“Around one in four New Zealanders are infected with flu each year. Eighty percent of those people infected with the flu won’t feel sick at all but can still pass it on to others. This is particularly concerning for people working in health. We would never intentionally work with patients if we knew we had a virus and could be passing it on to someone whose health is already vulnerable. With the flu virus, you may not know.

Flu viruses are mostly spread by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. That’s why it’s important to try and keep several metres from others when you are unwell to reduce the spread of the virus.”

For the last five years, Hauora Tairāwhiti has had the highest percentage of staff immunised against influenza out of all New Zealand district health boards (DHB). 84% of all local DHB staff rolled up their sleeves to protect themselves and the people they care for last year. “This level of caring for our community is one we intend to repeat and extend in 2018 to make a healthier winter for all, says Chief Executive Jim Green.

Where can I get a flu shot?

Flu immunisation is free for Tairāwhiti residents from your doctor, nurse or vaccinating pharmacist (Bramwells, Gordon’s, Sean Shivnan Pharmacies and Pharmacy 53), from April until the end of December, if you’re in one of these groups:

  • Anyone aged 65 years or over
  • Pregnant women (any stage of pregnancy) 

Pregnant women can also get free flu immunisation from:

  • Their midwife at any point in pregnancy
  • In the Maternity Unit at Gisborne Hospital
  • Gisborne Hospital and Tūranga Health Antenatal Clinic

Flu immunisation is also free 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.

Even if you don’t qualify for free immunisation from your doctor, nurse or pharmacist, you may still be able to get one free from your employer. Flu shots are also available for anyone for a fee from a doctor, nurse or some pharmacists. Please encourage your family/whānau members who can get the free flu shot to see their doctor, nurse or qualified vaccinating pharmacist.