Children to get free flu vaccines

Covid-19 Response Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall and Health Minister Andrew Little. Photo: RNZ.

Children aged 3-12 years and people with serious mental health or addictions needs will now be eligible for free flu vaccinations.

From Friday, July 1, the Government is widening access to free flu vaccinations with an extra 800,000 New Zealanders being eligible.

Health Minister Andrew Little says free flu shots are already available for everyone over the age of 65 and those at risk of becoming seriously ill or who have underlying conditions.

"This season we ordered 40 per cent more vaccines," says Little.

"We’ve already seen more than one million New Zealanders get a flu shot, but with significant pressure on our health system we’re ramping up efforts to get as many people vaccinated as possible.

"In recent weeks we have seen a number of pre-school children hospitalised with the flu. We also know children can be transmitters of the flu to others in their family who are more at risk, so it makes sense to reduce transmission as much as we can.

"We also know that people with serious mental health or addiction needs can get seriously sick from the flu, which is why we’re also extending flu vaccinations to this group this year."

Little says the extension of the free flu vaccination to more at-risk New Zealanders is just one of the actions being taken to reduce pressure on NZ's health system this winter.

Covid-19 Response Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall says a second Covid-19 booster is available for everyone over the age of 50 and recommended for anyone over the age of 65, as well as Māori and Pacific peoples older than 50 and people who are severely immunocompromised.

"The availability of the second booster has also been extended to health, aged-care and disability workers over the age of 30," says Verrall.

“For those not at risk of severe illness from Covid-19, a two-dose primary course and one booster continues to provide very good protection. So, for those who haven’t had a first booster, please act now."

The second booster dose should be offered six months after the previous dose, and postponed for three months after a Covid-19 infection.

A second booster dose is not recommended for anyone who is pregnant and is healthy, including those with no underlying health conditions which could increase the risk of severe Covid-19.

"Staying up-to-date with the recommended Covid-19 vaccinations will continue to protect you from the risk of serious illness, hospitalisation or death," says Verrall.

The Ministry of Health’s Covid-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group will continue to review new information on Covid-19 and vaccines and will make further recommendations on eligibility criteria as necessary.

"The combination of Omicron and flu is making this winter more challenging than normal. The best thing New Zealanders can do to ensure they and their families don’t end up in hospital is to be up-to-date with their flu and Covid-19 vaccinations and boosters," says Verrall.

Anyone who is eligible for a second booster can get one without a prescription from a range of places, including walk-in and drive-through vaccination centres, booking online using BookMyVaccine or by calling the Covid Vaccination Healthline on 0800 282926.

Flu shots are available by booking with GPs or local pharmacies.

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