National Influenza Strategy GroupWednesday 19 January 2011, 1:35PM
Media release from National Influenza Strategy
The National Influenza Strategy Group (NISG)1 is concerned that New
Zealanders who have become complacent about swine flu might skip
the seasonal influenza vaccination in 2011.
"We've already seen evidence from the Northern Hemisphere winter
that some people there have treated swine flu as a mild illness
which isn't worth the bother of immunisation," says NISG
spokesperson and virologist Dr Lance Jennings.
But he says people would be making a mistake if they underestimate
the seriousness of swine flu, which based on current international
trends is expected to be the predominant influenza virus in New
Zealand in 2011.
"Although swine flu is mild-to-moderate for most people, it can
lead to serious complications and even death for others.
"When you get vaccinated you don't just protect yourself - you are
also significantly reducing the risk of becoming a carrier of the
illness and potentially passing it on to your family, your
co-workers and others - including children, the elderly and infirm
friends or family members.
"Influenza vaccination also provides protection against several
other strains of influenza which can cause serious illness or
death, and which are expected to be the predominant strains in
circulation that year. In 2011 the strains covered by
the vaccine are:
• A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)-like
virus; (Swine Flu)
• A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2)-like virus;
• B/Brisbane/60/2008-like virus.
"Most years the strains covered by the seasonal influenza vaccine
change. 2011 is unusual in that the strains are the same as
in 2010. However people who were vaccinated last year should
still be vaccinated again this year because the immunity offered by
current vaccines lessens over time, so a further vaccination is
likely to offer better protection for the 2011 season."
Between 10 and 20 percent of the population are infected with
influenza each year.2 Up to 156,000 will consult a GP3.
Surveillance reports indicate that between 1989 and 2004 there were
5,226 hospitalisations and 414 deaths, making an average of 327
hospitalisations per year directly attributed to influenza. 3
Data up to September 2010 shows that 727 people were hospitalised
last year with laboratory-confirmed cases of pandemic influenza
(the predominant virus strain). 15 of the 20 swine
flu-related deaths reported to the end of September 2010 were
confirmed as due to swine flu.
"Influenza is not just a "bad cold". Although some of the
symptoms may be similar, influenza is much more severe.
Influenza may lead to serious complications, particularly in people
with an existing medical condition."
Influenza immunisation is free as soon as vaccine is available
(usually mid-March) for New Zealanders at high risk of
complications -- people aged 65 and over, and anyone under 65 years
of age with long-term health conditions such as heart disease,
stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease (including asthma), kidney
disease and most cancers.
In addition, for 2011 the Government will subsidise influenza
immunisation for pregnant women. The subsidised season has also
been extended for 2011 to July 31.
Pregnant women have been included as studies have shown they are
particularly susceptible to more severe outcomes from swine
In 2010 influenza vaccine uptake reached 1,046,000 doses (as at 30
September), an 8 percent increase over 2009.
"Practices did a fantastic job in 2010 and their efforts minimised
the threat posed by swine flu. However there is no room for
complacency and we need to work hard in 2011 to protect ourselves
and the community by maintaining a high level of uptake," Dr Lance
The NISG Influenza Kit is expected to arrive in surgeries in early
February. Content has been completely reviewed to include relevant
The "Don't Let the Flu Get You" TV campaign will run again in
Seasonal vaccine is expected to arrive in the country around
mid-March. Surgeries are, however, urged to place orders now to
ensure they have supplies available by the time the promotional
campaign begins in March.
"You don't need to wait for the kit to place orders," explains NISG
chair Michelle Kapinga. "However surgeries do need to wait
until vaccine is in their fridge before arranging clinics."
The funded seasonal influenza vaccines for 2010 are Fluvax
(manufactured in Australia by CSL) and Fluarix (manufactured in
Germany by GSK).
Due to the reactions experienced by some children in 2010 Fluvax
will not be recommended for use in children under 9 years in 2011.
As yet, there is no clear evidence as to why those reactions
occurred, and clinical investigations are continuing.
Ms Kapinga says the 2010 seasonal influenza vaccines are
manufactured using technology which has been in use for 60 years,
and which has an excellent safety record4,5
Resources specifically targeting healthcare workers and
occupational health workers will be provided to both public and
private hospitals in February. The Ministry of Health is strongly
encouraging healthcare workers to get vaccinated - to protect
themselves, their patients and their friends and families.
For further information go to www.influenza.org.nz or www.moh.govt.nz or call 0800
IMMUNE 0800 466 863.
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