The government has already reached its target of immunising 1.2 million New Zealanders with the flu vaccine this year, more than two months earlier than anticipated, says Associate Health Minister Jo Goodhew.
This is the largest number of Kiwis ever vaccinated against the flu, including during the pandemic flu season in 2009.
"This was an ambitious target but thanks to the hard work of health professionals around the country, we have reached our goal much earlier than anticipated and just as the flu illnesses are about to begin," says Mrs Goodhew.
"Our goal now is to continue the momentum and immunise as many people as possible. The more people immunised against the flu means less flu circulating in our community and greater protection for all."
To help promote immunisation, the Ministry of Health is launching a series of videos featuring people who have been affected by the flu in some way and those wanting to protect themselves and their families from catching the flu. One of the videos features Mark McIlroy whose wife Catherine died from the flu last year.
"I really appreciate Mark’s support of this year’s flu programme and are grateful for his willingness to share the tragic story of his wife’s death. It gives a very sobering example of how serious the flu can be and why it is so important to immunised," Mrs Goodhew says.
Of the 1.2 million doses distributed so far, 575,000 are funded immunisations, with the remainder purchased privately either by individuals or by workplace immunisation programmes.
Around 1.1 million people are eligible for funded flu vaccine each year including people 65 years and over, pregnant women, children under the age of five with significant respiratory illnesses and people with on-going health conditions.
To view Mark McIlroy’s video and story go to www.health.govt.nz and for further information on the flu immunisation programme go to www.fightflu.co.nz or call 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863).