Asthma and Respiratory Foundation NZ strongly advises people with a respiratory illness to get their free influenza vaccination from March onwards. It is best to get vaccinated before the start of the winter season, before influenza enters the community.
The free flu vaccine is available to all people 65 years of age and over, and people under 65 who have asthma and on regular preventative therapy, or have a chronic respiratory disease with impaired lung function. It is also free for children aged four years and under who have significant respiratory illness.
“People with long term respiratory conditions such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or cystic fibrosis are at higher risk of complications from influenza than others,” says the Foundation’s National Education Services Manager, Teresa Demetriou. “Complications from influenza include pneumonia, heart failure and worsening asthma symptoms.”
“For best protection, we advise everyone with a respiratory condition to get a flu vaccination now as immunisation typically takes up to two weeks to take effect. Influenza is a serious illness, and every winter we see people admitted to hospital with the flu who are extremely unwell, and some require intensive care admission,” Demetriou says.
It’s important for the influenza vaccination to be done every year, as protection lessens over time, and circulating influenza strains may change each year. For 2016, there are two new influenza strains which are included in the vaccine, that were not included in the 2015 vaccine.
Free flu vaccinations are available until the end of July from your GP and some pharmacies.