Bloomfield: 'Please get your flu jab' as fresh vaccine stocks arrive in NZ

Author
Dubby Henry, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 21 May 2020, 3:29PM
(Photo / NZ Herald)
(Photo / NZ Herald)

Bloomfield: 'Please get your flu jab' as fresh vaccine stocks arrive in NZ

Author
Dubby Henry, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 21 May 2020, 3:29PM

The Government has secured an extra 360,000 flu vaccines from the Northern Hemisphere - but they won't be suitable for everyone.

Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield today encouraged all Kiwis to get the flu jab as the weather was getting noticeable colder.

Speaking at the daily Covid-19 press conference, he said there had now been 2.1 million doses made available, after the latest batch arrived in New Zealand this week and had passed through the regulatory process.

The 360,000 doses from the Northern Hemisphere were only approved for use in healthy people aged 3-64, because they were a "good but not full match" for the four strains of flu circulating in the Southern Hemisphere, Bloomfield said today.

But there was currently still a good supply of Southern Hemisphere vaccines across the country and these would be administered first.

All providers were being asked to set aside some of those doses specifically for vulnerable people who hadn't yet been vaccinated. Another 20,000 doses would be held back in the national store for the same purpose, to ensure high-needs people had the best coverage against the flu.

The Ministry of Health said last week it did not have enough doses of influenza vaccine to meet increased demand brought about by Covid-19.

It had been working with Pharmac to source extra stock, including getting approval to use a Northern Hemisphere version of the vaccine in New Zealand.

 

Two of the four strains in that vaccine are identical to two strains in the 2020 New Zealand season vaccine, and a third strain is a close enough match to provide some protection. The remaining strain is not a close match and was less likely to offer protection.

"The main reason that we went ahead and ordered this vaccine when it was offered is that the specialist advice is very clear - it's much better for people to have some protection than no protection," Bloomfield said today.

There were now more than 2 million doses of flu vaccine that had been made available for this winter.

"It is of much more value in people's arms than sitting on the shelves so please do go out and get your flu jab."

The Southern Hemisphere vaccine was made to order at the start of the season and no more was available. New Zealand had been fortunate to be able to source an extra 3-400,000 doses of that version earlier this year, Bloomfield said.

GPs would be required to tell patients which version of the vaccine they were getting and what it did or did not immunise against.

This year's flu jab programme has broken records for the amount of people getting vaccinated but has also hit major supply chain and distribution problems.

The Ministry of Health brought forward the flu vaccination programme in March to try and keep hospitalisation numbers down this winter in the face of a potential Covid-19 outbreak.

The programme has been rolled out in stages, with vulnerable people such as pregnant women and the elderly up first seven weeks ago.

But a number of suppliers initially bought up and hoarded stock, leaving some GPs and pharmacies unable to get any doses for weeks at a time.