The percentage of Aucklanders under the age of 65 who have received their annual flu vaccination has halved this year as COVID-19 has kept people away from general practices, according to the latest data from ProCare, New Zealand’s largest network of primary healthcare professionals.
By the end of October last year, 63% of Aucklanders with underlying health issues who were under the age of 65 across ProCare’s population had received their flu vaccination, however, this year only 33% that same group have had their annual flu vaccine – a decrease of 30 percentage points.
Bindi Norwell, Group CEO at ProCare says: “It is extremely disheartening to see the number of Aucklanders who have received a flu vaccine this year falling so significantly – especially in the midst of a global pandemic.
“However, what is really frightening is the fall in those under the age of 5. Only 9% of our most vulnerable children who have a long-term condition or have had an acute respiratory hospitalistion received their flu vaccination this year, down from 21% when compared to the same time last year,” she continues.
“This drop is likely exacerbated by the fact that practices could only order in limited stock at any time and the fact that stock of paediatric flu vaccines ran out early in the year,” point out Norwell.
It was a similar picture for the 5 to 64 age bracket; with 24% of patients with long term conditions receiving their flu vaccination compared to 42% at the same time last year.
“Despite COVID-19, it is essential that people continue to protect themselves against other illnesses – especially if they have long term health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular issues or for example, if they are currently pregnant,” points out Norwell.
“General practices are still open, so we would encourage anyone who hasn’t yet received their annual flu vaccination to get in touch with their doctor’s surgery and make an appointment to ensure they are protected,” she continues.
However, at the other end of the spectrum, for ProCare’s population aged over the results were more heartening.
“Thankfully, the decrease in flu vaccinations for our over 65s hasn’t fallen as much, with a 7 percentage point drop when compared to the same time last year,” concludes Norwell.