The Government has extended by two weeks till April 27 the amount of time priority groups, such as health workers and those aged over 65, have to get their flu vaccine before it is made available to the wider public.

This year’s vaccination campaign is a key component of the Government’s fight against COVID-19 by ensuring vulnerable groups don’t put pressure on the health system by getting sick and in doing so make themselves more susceptible to COVID-19 should they contract it.

Free flu vaccines are available now from a range of health providers including GPs, selected pharmacies and Māori health providers for priority groups including:

· People aged 65 and over

· People who are pregnant

· People with certain chronic conditions, and

· Young children with a history of severe respiratory illness

· Frontline health workers.

“My message to those aged over 65 and anyone else in the priority groups is to get in contact with your GP or pharmacist and make a plan to get vaccinated. In the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak it could literally help save lives,” Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter said.

“I particularly want to acknowledge Māori health providers such as Te Kupenga Hauora –Ahuriri in Napier that have been actively reaching out to kaumatua to ensure they are getting vaccinated

“There are plenty of vaccines available. This week another 300,000 further flu vaccines arrived in the country and are being distributed in addition to the 900,000 vaccines already sent out to GPs and pharmacies.

“All health providers that have placed orders should have more vaccines on their way now.

“Unfortunately there are some issues with availability that we are fixing. Some providers ordered more vaccine than they were able to administer while others have run out.

“The Ministry of Health are now more actively managing flu vaccine stocks to ensure priority groups can access them and they are going where they are most needed. There is no point vaccines sitting around unused.

“Any health provider that does not have sufficient supply for priority groups is encouraged to contact their DHB Immunisation Coordinator so more stock can be arranged.

“I want to acknowledge the hard work that healthcare workers are doing to ensure New Zealand is the most prepared we have ever been for flu season.

“I want to be clear that hospital cleaners, aged care workers and home support workers are a priority for accessing flu vaccines during this time. We are working with employers to make sure this is provided at no cost to them.

“With our borders shut and the country in lockdown we expect fewer transmissions of influenza. It’s even more important than ever priority groups get the flu jab to ensure the health system isn’t overburdened this winter.

“I urge people who are at higher risk from the flu to continue to ring their GP or pharmacist to make an appointment to get vaccinated. With the COVID-19 outbreak there are different process in place for getting vaccinated so it pays to ring ahead to make a plan,” Julie Anne Genter said.