Health minister leads the way with flu vaccination
Waikato residents are being urged to get their annual flu jab now to prevent the viral illness taking hold this winter.
The vaccine has arrived in GP surgeries across the district and doctors are urging people to get the jab soon as it can take up to two weeks from vaccination to develop immunity.
Health minister Tony Ryall got his jab on Tuesday and urged all Kiwis to follow suit.
''We want more New Zealanders to be protected against this serious disease - this year the goal is to vaccinate 1.2 million people,'' he said. ''Around 400 New Zealanders die, directly or indirectly, each year from influenza. ''Last year the disease put more than a thousand people in hospital and nearly 50,000 people visited their GP with influenza-like illness.''
Waikato District Health Board immunisation co-ordinator Kim Hunter said the flu was a ''serious illness'' and could put people in hospital and even kill them.
''Having an influenza vaccine yearly is an important way to protect yourself and others,'' she said.
''As the circulating influenza strains change each year, so does the vaccine, so annual vaccination is necessary.'' The influenza vaccine for the 2013 southern hemisphere season includes two new strains based on recommendations from the World Health Organisation.
Ms Hunter said it was a myth that people could get the flu from simply having the jab.
''The vaccine is not live and it is not possible to catch influenza from the vaccine,'' she said.
The flu vaccination is free to those at greatest risk of serious influenza complications, including New Zealanders over the age of 65, pregnant women and people with ongoing health conditions such as asthma or heart problems.
People who are not eligible for the programme can buy the vaccine from their general practitioner or selected pharmacies.
The free influenza vaccination season will end on July 31.