Free shots of­fered for people at risk

Central Leader - - NEWS -

Young chil­dren and preg­nant women are at higher risk of de­vel­op­ing se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tions from in­fluenza.

Plun­ket is en­cour­ag­ing people to take ad­van­tage of the govern­ment’s free flu vac­ci­na­tions to pro­tect them­selves against the po­ten­tially deadly virus.

‘‘New Zealan­ders tend to un­der­es­ti­mate what a se­ri­ous dis­ease in­fluenza is,’’ clin­i­cal ad­vi­sory man­ager Karen Ma­grath says.

‘‘It kills around 400 New Zealan­ders, di­rectly or in­di­rectly, each year – so it’s not some­thing we should take lightly.’’

Last year more than a thou­sand people were hos­pi­talised af­ter con­tract­ing the flu.

The vac­ci­na­tion is free to those at great­est risk of se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tions, in­clud­ing people over the age of 65, preg­nant women and people with on­go­ing con­di­tions such as asthma, di­a­betes or heart prob­lems.

Ms Ma­grath says changes to preg­nant women’s lung func­tion and im­mu­nity, as well as in­creased heart out­put and oxy­gen con­sump­tion place them at par­tic­u­larly high risk.

‘‘We strongly ad­vise ex­pec­tant mums to get the free vac­ci­na­tion. Ba­bies un­der 6 months old are too young to be im­mu­nised so if their mums are vac­ci­nated they can pass pro­tec­tion on to their baby.’’

The vac­cine is avail­able un­til the end of July from GPs or nurses.

People who are not el­i­gi­ble for the free vac­cine can pur­chase it from their GP or selected phar­ma­cies.

Photo: BRADLEY AM­BROSE

Free vac­ci­na­tions: Preg­nant women, people over the age of 65 and those with on­go­ing con­di­tions such as asthma, di­a­betes or heart prob­lems are el­i­gi­ble for free in­fluenza vac­ci­na­tions.

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