Influenza continues to be a major threat to public health worldwide because of its ability to spread rapidly through populations. Influenza vaccination can be offered to individuals aged 6 months or older.
Influenza vaccination is funded for certain groups of people who are considered to be at greater risk of complications from influenza. Additional preventative strategies are important to reduce their risk of exposure to influenza. The vaccination is also recommended, although not funded, for those who are in close contact with individuals who are more vulnerable or at high risk of complications and who may also be less able to mount a strong immune response to vaccination. Frontline healthcare workers are usually funded by their employer.
Should individuals who work with tamariki receive an influenza vaccination? Yes. Influenza infection rates are generally highest in tamariki, and they are a major source of the spread of influenza. It is also important for all people working with tamariki, and especially young babies, to be vaccinated against influenza to reduce the risk of passing influenza onto them.
Why is an influenza vaccination recommended every year? Yearly vaccination is recommended for two reasons: first, because protection from the previous vaccination lessens over time; and second, because the circulating influenza viruses can change and the strains in the vaccine usually change each year in response to the changing virus pattern.
A ‘whānau-centred approach’ refers to a culturally-grounded, holistic approach focused on improving the wellbeing of whānau and addressing individual needs within a whānau context. In the context of the influenza campaign this means supporting immunisation providers to consider the collective needs of the whānau when giving an influenza vaccination. For example, offering Measles Mumps Rubella (MMR) catch‑ups to tamariki who have missed their vaccinations, whooping cough vaccine to hapū māmā and COVID-19 boosters to whānau who are due for them.
In 2020 and 2021, DHBs and Māori health providers were funded to establish innovative immunisation services, as part of the Government’s initial Māori health response to COVID-19, to increase immunisation coverage for Māori eligible to receive a funded influenza vaccine, in particular kaumātua aged over 55 years.
The Ministry of Health is committed to a continued partnership with all providers to address inequity in immunisation, in line with Whakamaua: Māori Health Action Plan 2020-2025. Regional engagement arms will support Māori heath providers contracted through the COVID-19 vaccine rollout to utilise their upskilled workforce to deliver influenza immunisations in their communities.
There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach and a whānau-based approachshould consider the context and needs of different communities. Providers should consider the strategies and findings outlined in More Than Just a Jab: Evaluation of the Māori Influenza Vaccination Programme as part of the COVID-19 Māori Health Response