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Deborah Mulligan receiving her influenza vaccination from Tūranga Health nurse Kimiora Biddle
Twice as many over 65-year-olds have been immunised against influenza compared to last year but there’s still just over 3000 in the district still at risk, says the public health nurse tasked with coordinating this district’s immunisation services.
Hauora Tairāwhiti immunisation coordinator and public health nurse Janine Brown is imploring older people to protect themselves against the fast-moving potentially life-threatening virus … and she’s not talking about COVID-19.
“I’m talking about influenza, a virus that makes people feel absolutely miserable and confines them to bed for a number of days,” says Ms Brown.
Local figures from the National Immunisation Register show 63 percent of people aged over 65 in the district have already been immunised.
That means 5028 out of 8025 over 65-year-olds have been immunised as of 4 May 2020. The figures also show 1323 over-65-year-olds who identify as Māori have been immunised – 55 percent of those who are eligible.
“I’m pleased with the uptake, it’s looking like it will be a record year for vaccinations for this age group, but there’s still another 3000 over 65-year-olds out there who are eligible for a free shot.”
“I implore anyone over 65 years of age, or who is pregnant, or who lives with a long term condition to make a plan to get their free influenza vaccination,” says Ms Brown.
Last year only 35 percent or 2808 of over-65-year-olds had been immunised by October 2019.
Ms Brown says immunisation providers across the rohe have been working hard to ensure more than ever that the flu vaccination is made available, particularly to kuia, koroua and hapū māmā, who are most vulnerable.
“This disease remains a significant threat to public health in this country with 10-20 percent of New Zealanders infected every year. In some cases, it may cause death.”
This year's influenza immunisation programme began early for those at greatest risk of influenza, and healthcare and other frontline workers, to ensure they had priority access to the vaccine.
“We want to do more this year.” says Ms Brown. “Please, if you are reading this and you know someone who is 65-years or older, then do make sure to encourage them to get their free vaccination. Better still take them to their GP appointment or a vaccinating pharmacy. ”
This year it is vital we stop influenza circulating so we can be clear if COVID-19 is coming back, says Hauora Tairāwhiti Chief Executive Jim Green. “Getting vaccinated against influenza is another way we can protect ourselves and our communities.
Ms Brown says there are several places offering influenza vaccination including general practices, pharmacies, iwi health providers, and occupational health staff. Public health nurses have been providing support to those organisations this year as it is such an important piece of work.
“Everyone has worked hard to ensure more than ever that the flu vaccination is made available to those in the community who need it most.
People in our community not eligible for the free vaccination can still be vaccinated but there will be a charge for the vaccination. “Anyone in this category who wants to be immunised should phone their GP or closest pharmacist to book an appointment.”
This year over 950 (89 percent) of Hauora Tairāwhiti staff have received the vaccination with another 80 staff still to go. This high rate shows how important health workers think it is to be vaccinated to keep themselves and their whānau safe.
Ms Brown reminds the public that the influenza vaccination won't protect against Covid-19.
Influenza Vaccinations are available from all GP practices and the following vaccinating pharmacies: