Winter is coming, and if health authorities have it their way more than 1.25 million New Zealanders will be ready for it.
Health Minister Tony Ryall launched the start of the official influenza vaccination campaign at Wellington Hospital today, getting his own flu jab alongside a group of pregnant women.
Expectant mums are a special target this year, with pregnant women an astounding 18 times more likely to be hospitalised with the flu than non-pregnant women.
Five women and Ryall were given the seasonal influenza jab this morning, which this year includes vaccination against two new strains of virus deemed by the World Health Organisation as a risk.
Ryall, as pointed out by Capital and Coast District Health Board midwifery co-ordinator Maureen Marshall, was the only one who appeared to feel the prick.
"You're the only one that's bled, for god's sake," she admonished, dabbing the spot.
"I can't even feel it," Ryall insisted.
Primary school teacher Rowan Barr was one of the women protecting herself against the flu.
With her due date just over a week away, she was keen to get immunised to protect the health of herself and her newborn child.
"I've had [vaccinations] for about ten years now anyway, because I'm a primary school teacher and I've got an elderly grandmother with respiratory problems, but it's nice that I can give some of the immunity to the baby through this.
"The risks are small getting an immunisation, and it's such a big benefit."
Nelson mum Tania Kirkland had just given birth to twin girls Tallulah and Fleur-ange a week ago. They were several weeks premature, and were currently in incubators in Wellington Hospital's neo-natal unit.
She had never had a flu jab before, but decided it was too risky not to this year.
"I just didn't want to get sick and transmit it to them. I never get sick and I have a good diet and everything else, but you get extremely protective when you have these children who are so fragile."
National Influenza Specialist Group chair Michelle Kapinga said it was hoped more than 1.25 million New Zealanders would get immunised this year, beating last year's number.
Last year the country was lucky enough to see a relatively mild flu season, she said.
While pregnant women were a focus this year, even healthy people could get struck by the flu and die from it. And it was important more vulnerable people in the community were protected.
The composition of this year's vaccination is California 2009, a H1N1-like virus, and new strains Texas 2012, a H3N2-like virus, and Massachusetts 2012.
Vaccination is free from a GP or nurse until July 31 for those at high-risk of complications. This includes pregnant women, those over the age of 65, or under 65 with long-term health conditions.
- The Dominion Post
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