Wellington death prompts more Cantabs to get flu jab

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 09/08/2012
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The death of a Wellington woman has pushed Cantabrians into having influenza vaccinations.

Immunisation rates for the seasonal flu vaccine were well below last year's levels, but health professionals said the death of a 49-year-old Wellington woman last month boosted flu-jab rates.

The previously healthy woman died after contracting the H3N2 flu strain, the prominent virus in Canterbury this winter.

Canterbury primary response group chairman Phil Schroeder said flu rates were dropping, but GPs across the region were still busy.

"I definitely noted a huge uptake of the flu vaccine across the Selwyn and Rolleston areas [after the death of the Wellington woman] and I expect that would have been the same across Canterbury, but I don't have the stats to prove that."

He said his Rolleston clinic ran out of vaccine last week and had to order more stock.

"I've heard similar things from other GPs about more people coming in for influenza vaccine but it's anecdotal, really," he said.

There have been more hospital admissions for the flu in the first two months of the 2012-13 financial year than for the whole of the previous financial year.

More than 280 people have been hospitalised with the flu in July and August so far. For the 2011-12 financial year there were 146 flu admissions.

Christchurch Hospital virologist Lance Jennings said rates were "certainly dropping". He said it was unfortunate that someone had to die before people would get their flu jabs.

"There is a level of complacency and maybe that's because of the 2009 [swine flu] epidemic. People maybe think they don't need to worry because that's not the common strain this year, but this year more people have been affected."

He had heard anecdotally that more people received flu jabs after news of the death. A total of 994,050 flu vaccines have been distributed to date this year.

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- The Press

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