New Zealand immunisation strategy

Influenza Immunisation Programme start date

From 2019, the annual Influenza Immunisation Programme will start from 1 April each year, subject to influenza vaccine being available for distribution from then.

The start date differs to previous years when the Programme started as soon as the influenza vaccine became available, usually early March. Emerging evidence on the effectiveness of influenza vaccination, influenza surveillance data, the impact of the start date on service delivery and feedback from the sector were considered by the Ministry of Health when making this decision.

New Zealand influenza surveillance data shows that in recent years the peak of influenza activity has been in August. The start date from 1 April for influenza vaccination will provide better protection for our vulnerable population during the expected peak of influenza activity. For influenza immunisation providers, a later start date also allows more time for planning and implementation of the Influenza Immunisation Programme.

The Ministry of Health recommends that providers of non-funded influenza immunisation, such as workplace vaccinators, consider providing their service from 1 April.

Click on this link to read the Ministry of Health policy statement on the annual Influenza Immunisation Programme start date.

Influenza Immunisation Programme goals

  • Vaccinate 75% of the population aged 65 years or older against influenza annually
  • Improve influenza immunisation coverage for people aged under 65 years with certain medical conditions, and pregnant women
  • Improve influenza immunisation uptake for healthcare workers
  • Vaccinate 80% of healthcare workers against influenza annually
  • Distribute more than 1.2 million influenza vaccine doses annually, i.e. protect more than 25% of the community

Who should be vaccinated?

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.

Eligibility for funded influenza vaccine

All children aged under 18 years who meet the influenza vaccination eligibility criteria can receive funded influenza vaccination regardless of their immigration and citizenship status, and providers can claim the immunisation benefit for administering the vaccine.

Adults aged 18 years or older who meet the influenza vaccination eligibility criteria must also be eligible to receive publicly funded health and disability services in New Zealand to receive funded influenza vaccination. Refer to the Health and Disability Services Eligibility Direction 2011 for eligibility criteria (available at www.health.govt.nz/new-zealand-health-system/eligibility-publicly-funded-health-services).

Women aged 18 years or older who are pregnant and not eligible to receive publicly funded health and disability services in New Zealand are recommended to receive influenza vaccination but are not eligible to receive funded vaccination, even if they are receiving funded primary maternity services under the Section 88 Primary Maternity Services Notice 200721 (available at www.health.govt.nz/publication/section-88-primary-maternity-services-notice-2007).
 

Eligibility criteria for FREE influenza vaccination for 2019:
 

     • Pregnant women (any trimester)
     • People aged 65 years or older
     • People aged under 65 years with any of the medical conditions listed on the opposite page
     • Children aged 4 years or under who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness or have a history of significant respiratory illness
     • People under 18 years of age living in the Kaikoura and Hurunui areas (within the Canterbury District Health Board)
        
     • The following conditions are excluded from funding:
           - Asthma not requiring regular preventative therapy,
           - Hypertension and/or dyslipidaemia without evidence of end-organ disease

 

For vaccination eligibility and clinical queries contact:

The Immunisation Advisory Centre (IMAC)
The University of Auckland
Phone: 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863)
Email: 0800immune@auckland.ac.nz
Also refer to the New Zealand Pharmaceutical Schedule on the PHARMAC website (www.pharmac.govt.nz/tools-resources/pharmaceutical-schedule).

Influenza vaccination before winter offers the best protection