Influenza Immunisation Programme Update

Date: 
Friday, May 14, 2021

The Ministry of Health report that almost 50 percent of adults aged 65 years or older have received their annual influenza vaccination this year. They acknowkedged and thanked providers for supporting a strong start to the Programme. The Influenza Immunisation Progamme for people aged under 65 years begins on 17 May 2021. 

The following information from the Ministry update is the next line of messaging about the 2021 Influenza Immunisation Programme. 

Top-line messages for the health sector

  • All New Zealanders will be able to get immunised from 17 May with the vaccine being distributed to providers this week.
  • Please continue to focus on immunising people at higher risk and remind whānau of the importance of both the COVID-19 and influenza vaccine as the COVID-19 vaccine does not provide immunity for both COVID-19 and influenza.
  • If a person has an appointment booked for the COVID-19 vaccine, they should get that first.
  • If they don’t have an appointment for the COVID-19 vaccine yet, they should get the flu vaccine first.
  • Guidance on how to manage the recommended two-week gap between flu and COVID-19 vaccines is available on the Ministry of Health website.
  • There remains a public health risk of influenza even with the current border settings and it is important we continue the programme to ensure background immunity is maintained and our most vulnerable are protected.

Supply

  • PHARMAC is making plenty of vaccine available to New Zealanders, with a record number of 2.4 million doses being brought into the country. This is almost 300,000 doses more than last year’s record supply. As of 13 May, over 980,000 doses have already been distributed to providers around the country.

Fluad Quad vaccine

  • Fluad Quad has been in high demand to support the successful start of the flu programme for those 65 years and over. Afluria Quad can also be used in people 65 years and over and it is funded for everyone in this group. There is ample supply for everyone that wants a flu shot this year. We encourage providers to continue ordering Fluad Quad stock until HCL notifies it has run out, and then move onto Afluria Quad.
  • A reminder that Fluad Quad MUST NOT be given to a person under 65. It is only approved by Medsafe for people aged 65 and over. Please refer to the Medsafe website alert for more information: www.medsafe.govt.nz/safety/Alerts/FluadQuad.asp.

Afluria Quad, Influvac Tetra and Afluria Quad Junior

  • Influvac Tetra is available for use in children aged three and four years of age and Afluria Quad Junior is available for children aged 6-35 months. Please only order and use Influvac Tetra for children aged three and four years.

Support messages

  • We understand some people are asking why the under 65s with underlying health conditions (who are eligible for a funded vaccine) have not yet been offered a flu vaccination. Can you please support us to reassure your communities that the different timing of vaccine availability for these groups is not based on prioritising one group over another. Rather, there are four different flu vaccines available this year – one for over 65s and three for under 65s.  The vaccines for people aged under 65 arrived later this year than in previous years, due to manufacturing issues and international availability of the vaccine.

Towards equity

  • As in 2020, the influenza programme has a focus on addressing inequities between Māori and non-Māori rates of immunisation. This is being coordinated by providers and DHBs at a local level.

Vaccine focus

  • The vaccine focus is on people who are eligible for a funded vaccination. This includes pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, people with certain chronic health conditions and children aged 6 months to four years with serious respiratory illnesses.
  • Health professionals - please focus on immunising people at higher risk and remind kaumatua of the importance of both the COVID-19 and influenza vaccine as the COVID-19 vaccine does not provide immunity for both COVID-19 and influenza.

Funding and reimbursement arrangements

  • We want as many health and disability care workers as possible to be vaccinated against influenza, to protect these important workforces, their whānau, and the people they care for. The Ministry continues to encourage all health and disability employers to fund vaccinations for their staff.
  • Occupational health providers are available for employer-funded vaccination schemes. Staff that are eligible for a funded vaccine may also access this at no cost through their GP or pharmacist. Please refer to ‘funding and reimbursement arrangements’ section on Ministry of Health influenza webpage for information.

Treasure our Whānau communications resources

Everything you need to know about the FLU 2021 handbook is available at influenza.org.nz, including information about the vaccines for different age groups. The new influenza promotional campaign for 2021 led by IMAC aims to reach Māori aged 65 and over, and Asian Peoples aged 65 and over.

Treasure our Whānau is based on the idea of everyone treating their whānau like the taonga they are. This concept was developed out of insights from older Māori and Chinese, Indian and Korean group discussions, which showed that many people were motivated to be immunised through wanting to protect their tamariki and mokopuna from their sickness. These resources are available at influenza.org.nz/resources and various videos at fightflu.co.nz.

If you require further information for the public or if you have questions, please contact the Ministry of Health at [email protected].