Community, Health

Flu shot crisis fixed

An urgent delivery of flu vaccine is set to arrive in the region to help boost dwindling supplies.

An urgent delivery of flu vaccine is set to arrive in the region to help boost dwindling supplies.

The Ministry of Health and PHARMAC have revealed an extra 55,000 doses of influenza vaccine are due to arrive in the country soon.

And a consignment of FluQuadri is expected to reach Marlborough next week.

The move comes in the wake of a nationwide shortage.

The flu hit residents in Nelson and Marlborough especially hard, says a spokeswoman from Nelson Marlborough District Health Board (NMDHB).

“Health professionals in Nelson and Marlborough report a greater number of people admitted to hospital with serious complications caused by influenza, including at least three children,” she says.

Eleven people were admitted to Wairau Hospital in Blenheim, including three children and one pregnant woman in May.

A spokeswoman says the increase in demand for the vaccination over the last four years shows how seriously the public took the risk of contracting the potentially deadly virus.

“The increasing demand reflects increasing community understanding of just how severe influenza can be and the importance of efforts to protect people and prevent it spreading”.

Figures from NMDHB show a steady rise in the uptake of vaccinations since 2014 when 39,200 people were vaccinated in Nelson and Marlborough.

By the end of flu season 2018, this had risen to 46,699.

The distribution of influenza vaccine in New Zealand has reached near-record levels, revealed the spokeswoman.

Around 1.3 million doses of influenza vaccine have been distributed already this winter.

“This number is close to last year’s all-time record of 1.326 million doses for the entire season and exceeds the number of doses distributed each year in 2016 and 2017,” she says.

Wairau hospital holds supplies of vaccines for vulnerable, eligible patients.

The additional vaccines mean that other New Zealanders will be able to purchase the vaccine once the new stocks arrive, says the spokeswoman.

Earlier this year, Pharmac and the Ministry of Health advised community-based doctors to limit the vaccination for those most at risk.

Nelson Marlborough Health Chief Medical Officer and paediatrician Dr Nick Baker says there was a push this year for ‘high needs’ patients to be vaccinated.

“Flu vaccination is especially important for anyone who has a health problem that means they are less able to cope with flu.

“Any condition that makes it harder to breathe and cough well makes influenza particularly severe.

“We hope to see both the local and national demand for flu vaccination increase again this year, as it did in 2018,” he says.

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