More flu vaccines on way for at-risk

Shortfall due to high demand.

Shortfall due to high demand.

FLU SHOTS IN SHORT SUPPLY: A record uptake of flu vaccinations heading into winter has meant remaing stock, plus 20,000 further vaccines that have been sourced, will only be available for those deemed most at risk. File picture

More flu shots will be made available to those most at risk, as near-record vaccination levels have caused a shortage around the country.

As the district enters winter, some doctors’ clinics and pharmacies in Gisborne have already run out of the influenza vaccine, while others are in full restrictions of the stock they have left.

City Medical, De Lautour Medical and Pharmacy 53 have no vaccines left.

Three Rivers Medical and Puhi Kaiti have restricted access to the vaccines they have left, with the flu shot only available to pregnant women, people over 65, or those who have chronic illnesses like asthma.

Bramwell Pharmacy has limited stock available.

A Ministry of Health (MoH) spokeswoman said an additional 20,000 vaccines would be made available around New Zealand for higher risk patients. They could not indicate a time frame for when any of those would reach Gisborne doctors’ clinics and pharmacies.

The additional release was because Pharmac, the agency that manages New Zealand’s pharmaceutical supplies, and Seqirus, the manufacturer of Afluria Quad influenza vaccine, worked together to make 14,000 vaccines originally intended for the private market available to those who were eligible for publicly-funded vaccines, said the MoH spokeswoman.

The funding of Fluarix Tetra, another flu shot usually only funded for babies and toddlers, was also extended to include use in pregnancy.

This meant 20,000 extra doses were available for those deemed most at risk.

The high demand this winter season has created a nationwide shortfall, with all 1.29 million vaccines ordered by Pharmac already distributed across New Zealand.

Pharmac director of operations Lisa Williams said this was the highest number of vaccines to have been distributed so early in winter.

“Australia has also experienced very high demand this year, and unfortunately there is no surplus stock available for us to source from Australia.”

The overwhelming majority of influenza vaccinations took place each year during April and May.

MoH confirmed they had asked providers to prioritise the stock remaining in clinics, estimated at around 20,000 doses nationwide, with around 1 percent of that in Gisborne.

“Already this season, distribution of influenza vaccine in New Zealand has reached near record levels . . . close to last year’s all-time record of 1.326 million doses for the entire season, and exceeds the number of doses distributed each year in 2016 and 2017.”

The MoH spokeswoman said they would continue to ask general practices and pharmacists to ensure they closely managed their stock levels, and prioritised the vaccination of those at greatest risk of influenza:

• Pregnant women

• Children aged 4 and under with serious respiratory illnesses

• People with severe asthma, heart disease, diabetes and other serious health conditions that make them more susceptible to influenza

• Those aged 65 and over.

“As well as vaccination, it’s also important to remember the other ways to help keep healthy during flu season. Washing hands, safe sneezing, and staying home if you’re unwell are other ways we can reduce the spread of winter illnesses including flu,” she said.

More flu shots will be made available to those most at risk, as near-record vaccination levels have caused a shortage around the country.

As the district enters winter, some doctors’ clinics and pharmacies in Gisborne have already run out of the influenza vaccine, while others are in full restrictions of the stock they have left.

City Medical, De Lautour Medical and Pharmacy 53 have no vaccines left.

Three Rivers Medical and Puhi Kaiti have restricted access to the vaccines they have left, with the flu shot only available to pregnant women, people over 65, or those who have chronic illnesses like asthma.

Bramwell Pharmacy has limited stock available.

A Ministry of Health (MoH) spokeswoman said an additional 20,000 vaccines would be made available around New Zealand for higher risk patients. They could not indicate a time frame for when any of those would reach Gisborne doctors’ clinics and pharmacies.

The additional release was because Pharmac, the agency that manages New Zealand’s pharmaceutical supplies, and Seqirus, the manufacturer of Afluria Quad influenza vaccine, worked together to make 14,000 vaccines originally intended for the private market available to those who were eligible for publicly-funded vaccines, said the MoH spokeswoman.

The funding of Fluarix Tetra, another flu shot usually only funded for babies and toddlers, was also extended to include use in pregnancy.

This meant 20,000 extra doses were available for those deemed most at risk.

The high demand this winter season has created a nationwide shortfall, with all 1.29 million vaccines ordered by Pharmac already distributed across New Zealand.

Pharmac director of operations Lisa Williams said this was the highest number of vaccines to have been distributed so early in winter.

“Australia has also experienced very high demand this year, and unfortunately there is no surplus stock available for us to source from Australia.”

The overwhelming majority of influenza vaccinations took place each year during April and May.

MoH confirmed they had asked providers to prioritise the stock remaining in clinics, estimated at around 20,000 doses nationwide, with around 1 percent of that in Gisborne.

“Already this season, distribution of influenza vaccine in New Zealand has reached near record levels . . . close to last year’s all-time record of 1.326 million doses for the entire season, and exceeds the number of doses distributed each year in 2016 and 2017.”

The MoH spokeswoman said they would continue to ask general practices and pharmacists to ensure they closely managed their stock levels, and prioritised the vaccination of those at greatest risk of influenza:

• Pregnant women

• Children aged 4 and under with serious respiratory illnesses

• People with severe asthma, heart disease, diabetes and other serious health conditions that make them more susceptible to influenza

• Those aged 65 and over.

“As well as vaccination, it’s also important to remember the other ways to help keep healthy during flu season. Washing hands, safe sneezing, and staying home if you’re unwell are other ways we can reduce the spread of winter illnesses including flu,” she said.

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