Flu: Just 18.1 per cent of Kiwis eligible for free jab but Govt says NZ prepared for possible outbreak

Less than one in five people are eligible for a free flu vaccine but the Government says it’s well prepared for any possible outbreak this winter.

The Herald has learned 18.1 per cent of people are eligible for a free flu vaccine.

The Ministry of Health said that was 914,920 people out of a total population of 5,061,419.

“I’m certainly satisfied with our preparations,” Deputy Prime Minister Grant Robertson said today.

“We are putting an extra push this year on making sure that people get out there and get their vaccine.”

He said many businesses and organisations offered free flu vaccinations.

“We continue to encourage everybody to get in there and get their flu vaccine, alongside making sure they’re protected against Covid as well.”

Director-general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield was asked last week why flu vaccines weren’t universally available for free like Covid-19 vaccines were.

Bloomfield said epidemiological rather than financial reasons were the reason, and many of the most vulnerable people were eligible for free jabs.

People aged 65 or older, Māori and Pacific people over 55 years old, pregnant women and people with some underlying health conditions are eligible for free flu jabs.

Some pharmacies also offer the free flu vaccine for people aged 13 or older.

Bloomfield has encouraged people to get a flu vaccine this winter and said face mask use protected people from both Covid-19 and the flu.

The Ministry of Health said Covid-19 border restrictions which were ending had kept other diseases including flu out of New Zealand.

It said due to hardly any flu circulating since Covid-19 arrived, community immunity was lower than usual.

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