Concerns over vaccine hesitancy as winter approaches

Hesitation with vaccines remains a concern among medical professionals as the flu shot and Covid-19 booster become available to converge for the winter.

Vaccination events were held over the weekend, where Prime Minister Chris Hipkins and Health Minister Ayesha Verrall were both stabbed.

The chairman of New Zealand General Practice and Porirua’s general practitioner, Dr Bryan Betty, said getting both vaccines at the same time did not carry any risk.

Those 30 and older, and younger people at higher risk of serious illness from Covid, can get the bivalent vaccine as long as it’s been at least six months since their last booster or positive test.

The flu shot is free for people in risk categories and available to anyone over 6 months old.

Betty told RNZ that the hesitation to vaccinate continued to be a problem – with misinformation circulating on social media.

It was common knowledge that these viruses were dangerous, he said.

“We know that the flu kills about 500 New Zealanders every year when we have a full flu season. We know that Covid is potentially dangerous, especially for those high-risk groups, so yes, it’s a real concern – the social story.

“[The hesitancy] is definitely something we see in practice and is definitely something we end up talking to patients about.”

Betty said the majority of patients chose to get the vaccine, which was “just the right way.”

“Once you get these diseases, although there is treatment, it can be very difficult at times, especially in the elderly or older age groups. There is a really potential for bad outcomes.”

Betty said another campaign about the dangers of these diseases could help.

Hipkins got his injections Saturday morning at a community vaccination event in Upper Hutt.

He said it was important that eligible people got the shots before winter arrived.

“It will actually better prepare them for the winter season, and will also help relieve pressure on the health system.

“So there will be more events like this around the country where our local healthcare providers will be encouraging people to get their flu shot and their Covid boosters and I would really encourage people to take advantage of that opportunity.”

Verrall also got both shots on Saturday and said many people could get their flu and Covid booster shots at the same time.

There were currently more than 700,000 Covid vaccines and 800,000 flu shots in the country, with more to come, she said.

The Covid-19 booster is free.

The flu vaccine is free for people aged 65 and over, Māori and Pacific people aged 55 and over, pregnant people and people with long-term conditions such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease, children aged six months to 12 years of age and people with mental health problems. and addiction problems.

Many workplaces in New Zealand also fund a free flu vaccine for their employees.