Vulnerable young, old and sickly are encouraged to get their flu shots before the country’s supply runs out.
CITC Pharmacy is already running short, and it’s just the start of flu season. No appointment is needed, says pharmacy manager Ashleigh Binnie, for those who need the jab.
Due to the shortage of vaccines in New Zealand, said Binnie, they were not able to order any more doses this winter. Of the 500 doses ordered by the last pharmacist, just 100 were now left.
The first suspected flu cases were diagnosed last month: samples from the 12 people were sent to New Zealand for testing. Two cases of Influenza A were confirmed, and four cases of the flu B virus.
The Ministry of Health has confirmed that flu vaccines have been provided to health staff who might otherwise contract the virus and infect others with compromised immune systems, like babies and people with chronic illnesses.
It has also confirmed that MPs have been immunised against the flu.
The World Health Organisation strongly recommends healthcare workers as a priority group for influenza vaccination, not only for their own protection and ability to maintain services, but also to reduce the spread of influenza to vulnerable patients including pregnant women.
The ministry said the vaccine had also been provided to those suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes.
Binnie advised that usually a second order of vaccine would be made, but that was not an option this year.
“We won’t be able to get any more, not for this season,” she said. “But we have enough that’s been pre-ordered to last for a while,” Binnie said.
A number of sick tourists have arrived into the country, and their virus can easily infect those living on the island.
Flu vaccines cost $30 at the pharmacy. Discounts can be given but the pharmacy must be contacted first.
In New Zealand, where the Cooks source their vaccine, supplies are running low and the numbers of people diagnose with flu are climbing. That country’s Ministry of Health is warning some GPs and pharmacies will run out of vaccine.
It says the flu is caused by different strains of influenza virus, and causes deaths every year.