Influenza - what you need to know

Many people have questions about the flu (influenza) and flu immunisation. Here are some of the more common questions - and their answers.

Can I get the flu shot for free?

Flu immunisation is free for Hawke's Bay residents from your doctor, nurse or qualified vaccinating pharmacist from April till the end of December, if you’re in one of these groups:

  • Anyone aged 65 years or over.
  • Pregnant women (any stage of pregnancy).

Flu immunisation is free for Hawke'sBay residents from a doctor or nurse only if you’re in one of these groups:

  • People under 65 years of age (including children) with long-term health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, respiratory disease (including asthma that requires regular preventive therapy), kidney disease and most cancers.
  • Children aged four and under who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness or have a history of significant respiratory illness.

Who can get a flu shot?

Anyone over the age of six months can be given an influenza vaccine.

I’m fit and healthy, so do I need an annual flu shot?

YES. Healthy adults, children and infants can still become seriously ill and even die. Also, healthy people can spread influenza to others around them. Although people with underlying medical conditions, like asthma or diabetes, are most at risk from flu-associated complications, previously fit and healthy people have ended up in hospital or died from this serious illness.

Isn't influenza and a cold the same thing?

NO. Influenza can be a serious illness that is sometimes fatal. Flu-related illnesses are estimated to cause more than 400 premature deaths each year in New Zealand and hundreds more people are hospitalised with flu.

Can pregnant women be immunised against the flu?

YES. It is strongly recommended. Pregnant women are more likely to get severe complications from influenza than non-pregnant women, and it can be dangerous for their unborn baby too. Protection passed from the mother in pregnancy can protect her newborn as well. The flu vaccine has been proven to have an excellent safety record for both pregnant women and their unborn babies.

Can the vaccine give me influenza?

NO. You cannot get influenza from the vaccine, as it does not contain any live viruses. Some people may experience mild reactions such as muscle aches or headaches for a short time after immunisation, and they may think this is the flu – but it’s not.

Can I build up my immunity to influenza naturally?

YES. With immunisation! Immunisation prepares your own natural immune system to fight influenza. Your immunity develops after you have been exposed to a particular strain of the flu virus either through getting the flu or being immunised. Natural remedies will not give you any protection against flu.

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