For the first time, pregnant women and people aged 65 and older will have access to free flu vaccinations at selected Unichem & Life community pharmacies across New Zealand from April 1, following an announcement from Pharmac.
Green Cross Health, the group behind Unichem, Life Pharmacy and The Doctors medical centres, has welcomed the move to improve access to flu vaccines for New Zealand communities.
Green Cross Health Group Manager, Professional Services, Alison Van Wyk says, 'We're always supportive of improving convenient access to health care and advice for everyone in New Zealand and Pharmac's latest announcement will enable us to work alongside our medical colleagues to better protect the most vulnerable people in our communities from the flu.'
Influenza, commonly called the flu, can be a serious illness to people of all ages. Over 1.2 million New Zealanders are vaccinated annually and in 2016, figures showed 67 per cent of over 65 year olds and 18 per cent of pregnant women received a flu vaccination.
'There remains a large proportion of New Zealanders who are not getting the flu vaccination and who could benefit from accessing it.
'Making the vaccination free in pharmacy to those most at risk due to age and pregnancy adds another layer of protection,' Van Wyk says. 'People with certain chronic medical conditions such as asthma and some cardiovascular conditions should continue to access the vaccine free from their local medical centre or GP and will be referred by their pharmacist.'
Pharmacists have access to the Ministry of Health Immunise Now web portal so that the details of those people who receive the free flu vaccine in pharmacy are made available to their GP.
'This is an important step forward in ensuring a collaborative approach among the primary health care teams in our communities. We applaud the work that has been done by the Ministry of Health to facilitate pharmacist access to the free flu vaccine programme,' Van Wyk says.
Since 2011, a number of vaccines have been reclassified so they can be administered by a pharmacist who is meeting the Ministry of Health's immunisation standards.
Pharmacists are subject to the same immunisation and quality standards as other vaccinators in order to deliver this service. Currently there are 300 pharmacist vaccinators working in around 200 Unichem and Life Pharmacies throughout New Zealand.
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Pharmac, Influenza vaccine in pharmacies, 3 February 2017.