Baby Drinking

winter vaccines for the family


As we head into winter with the inevitable flu to welcome us, the question of immunisation becomes an important one. In addition to the vaccinations already recommended on the New Zealand National Immunisation Schedule (NIS) what about the flu shot? And how do we prepare our children for the shots? And what about side effects?

Here are the facts:

  • The flu can be caused by different strains of the influenza virus (though symptoms for different types of flu are the same). The seasonal influenza vaccine is altered most years to cover the particular strains of the virus that are circulating each year. Along with the fact that protection lessens over time, that’s why annual immunisation is recommended – to make sure you are protected from the most recent strain.
  • The flu vaccination programme is a voluntary one and the Ministry of Health encourages everyone to get vaccinated. Influenza Immunisation is especially recommended for those at greatest risk of complications from influenza, and the flu vaccination is currently free for people in the following at risk groups;

    • Women who are pregnant – the Fight Flu website has a great section with more information on the flu and immunisation in pregnancy
    • regularly use an asthma preventer
    • have diabetes
    • have heart disease
    • have kidney problems
    • have cancer
    • have a serious medical condition
    • are aged 65 years or over
    • or a child under the age of five years who has been hospitalised for a respiratory illness, or has a history of significant respiratory illness.
  • Note that whilst the vaccination is free for these at risk groups, your GP may charge a consultation fee and you should check this before making your appointment. If you do not have one of these eligible conditions, you still benefit from an influenza immunisation and it is available, at a small cost.
  • How can parents prepare their children for these shots? Family Doctor Duncan Jefferson advises: “Treat it as a regular visit to the doctor, it’s likely to be far less painful than a tumble in the garden. Parents need to see this as an opportunity to protect their children, if parents are relaxed, children are more likely to follow their cues.”
  • Dr Jefferson further advises, that whilst there are likely to be visual side effects like local soreness, redness or even bruising parents should not be overly concerned. However, “if there is excessive swelling at the site, or the child has a fever, seek a doctor’s advice immediately, don’t wait. Parents must act on their concerns.”
  • For parents who have children who have had a bad experience with an injection or are likely to react badly Dr Jefferson advises talking to the GP or nurse before attending the appointment. Topical creams are expensive and should only be used in consultation with a medical professional.
  • Who should I talk to if I have any questions about influenza or any other vaccine? If you have any questions about the immunisations that are specific to your situation, you should ask your doctor or phone 0800IMMUNE (0800 466 863) Immunisation Advisory Centre.

For more information regarding influenza immunisation;