Whanganui leads the country in flu vaccine campaign


21 May 2020


Whanganui is leading the way nationally for vaccinations against influenza.


Latest figures from the Ministry of Health show the Whanganui region is the top performer when it comes to people getting their flu jabs.


Being immunised against the flu is particularly important this year as New Zealand tackles the COVID-19 outbreak, and the national campaign started early to counter the threat of two viruses in circulation.


The first stage of the flu campaign has targeted priority groups -- those who are vulnerable and likely to get more severe symptoms. These priority groups are people aged 65 and over; pregnant women; those with long-term health conditions; and children aged four and under with respiratory problems.


Free vaccinations for these groups started on 18 March and continued till 28 April when the flu vaccine became available for everyone.


The ministry’s figures up to 1 May show that of the country’s 20 district health boards, Whanganui has had the best results, with 24 per cent of the total population vaccinated.


A standout statistic was for Maori aged 65 and over, where 83 per cent of the population had been vaccinated. Across all prioritised ethnicities, Whanganui has reached 74 per cent.


DHB chief executive Russell Simpson hailed the “whole-of-system effort” that had produced the results.


“A lot of groups have combined to give us such good numbers – public health staff; primary health services; and kaupapa Māori providers.”


He particularly acknowledged the efforts of the Whanganui Regional Health Network.


The successful campaign has been noted at the Ministry of Health, with Deputy Director General, Population Health and Prevention, Deborah Woodley commenting: “Whanganui DHB has done an outstanding job -- 83 per cent of Māori aged over 65 in the DHB have had a flu vaccine. Last year national coverage for Māori for the whole season was 45.3 per cent.”


Last week Director General of Health Ashley Bloomfield noted that more than half of Mâori aged 65 and over had had their influenza vaccination.


“This is double the rate for the same time last year. The initiatives that have helped to achieve this higher immunisation rate are something we want to continue in future influenza seasons. It’s great to see higher uptake than ever by all New Zealanders.”