Some people qualify for a free vaccine because they are in a high-risk group. However, vaccines are available to anyone who wishes to protect themselves. You might want to avoid having to take time off work. You may want to protect your elderly relatives or young babies if you catch the flu and you are contagious. You’ll be contagious for a day before you have symptoms (so there’s nothing you can do about that) and for up to seven days after you become sick.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Health recommends flu vaccination as the best defence against influenza – even for fit and healthy people. In New Zealand, people aged 65 and over, pregnant women, and those with certain medical conditions are considered to be more at risk and are therefore eligible for free influenza immunisation with either Influvac or Fluarix, the two funded trivalent vaccines.
Children can begin to be immunised against the flu from six months of age. Children aged eight years and under need to have two doses at least four weeks apart in the first year they receive the vaccine. One dose of influenza vaccine is required for subsequent years and for children aged nine years and over.
Influenza is highly contagious. It is spread from person to person, up to two metres away, by coughing, sneezing or even talking. You can also catch the flu by touching a surface which has flu virus on it, then touching your mouth or nose.