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  • New Zealand pharmacists vital in flu fight

    Author: Karen Keast

More than 450 trained and accredited pharmacist vaccinators in community pharmacies across New Zealand will play a vital role in this year’s influenza campaign.

As Australia inches closer to pharmacist-delivered vaccinations, New Zealand pharmacists are being applauded for helping to increase the consumer uptake of the flu jab.

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The National Influenza Specialist Group (NISG), a not-for-profit group of doctors and nurses, said community pharmacies are easily accessible while pharmacy-delivered vaccinations provide another group of health professionals who are actively involved in immunisation and advocating for its use.

Around 1.2 million doses of the influenza vaccine were administered in the 2014 season and preparation is now underway for this season.

NISG spokesperson and virus expert Dr Lance Jennings said immunisation is the best form of protection against influenza, and health care professionals play an integral role in ensuring a high uptake.


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“We have been working closely with the pharmacy sector as the advice of a health care professional is most important in a person’s decision to be vaccinated,” he said.

The delivery of the influenza vaccine will run several weeks later this year compared with previous years.

Dr Jennings said a change in the vaccine strains for the southern hemisphere influenza vaccine, which includes A/California and new strains A/Switzerland and B/Phuket, and the complex manufacturing process will take longer than usual.

While he expected the impact of the delay to be minimal, a continuous supply of vaccine will be available mid-April.

Dr Jennings expressed concern that people may become complacent about the threat of influenza on the back of mild influenza seasons in the past two years.

He said it could be a challenge to improve the vaccine uptake for 2015.

Titahi Bay Pharmacy pharmacist vaccinator Amanda Stanfield said pharmacy-delivered flu vaccines have raised the profile of vaccination.

“People see the posters and come in to talk to us about it,” she said.

“It gives us the opportunity to dispel some of their myths, which may have been a barrier to them protecting themselves against the flu.

“It also gives us an opportunity to educate them on the benefits of immunisation.”

Influenza vaccination is free until July 31, 2015, for pregnant women, people aged 65 and over, and anyone under 65 with ongoing medical conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease, kidney disease and most cancers, and also for children under the age of four with a history of respiratory illness.

The Ministry of Health is urging health professionals to also be vaccinated, in a bid to protect themselves as well as their patients.

More than 60 per cent of District Health Board health care workers were vaccinated in 2014, up from 58 per cent in 2013.


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Karen Keast

Karen Keast is a freelance health journalist who writes news and feature articles for HealthTimes.

Karen regularly writes for some of Australia’s leading health news websites and magazines.  In a media career spanning 20 years, Karen has worked as a senior journalist in newspapers and television. She has covered the grind of daily news and worked as a politics reporter at countless state and federal elections.

Since venturing into freelance writing five years ago, Karen has found her niche in writing about the health sector for editors, businesses and corporations.

Karen has interviewed the heads of peak health organisations in Australia and overseas, and written hundreds of news and feature articles covering the dedicated work of health professionals who tread the corridors of hospitals and health services, universities, aged care facilities and practices, day in and day out.

Follow Karen Keast on Twitter @stylemywords