Flu jabs rationed as demand spikes

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Demand for flu jabs has kept Queenstown doctors and pharmacists under the pump, as a surge of people rush to protect themselves against nasty winter illnesses.

But a nationwide vaccination shortage’s been causing headaches for local health care staff, who’ve had to turn people away.

Ministry of Health reported nearly 1.3 million people had the vaccine just one week into the flu season – close to the total number of doses given last winter.

While it seems every Queenstown office is riddled with sneezing and coughing staff, medical workers say the number of people presenting with a cold or flu is similar to last year.

They do, however, say people who’ve fallen sick seem to have particularly nasty and longer-lasting symptoms.

Pharmacist at Unichem Remarkables Park Pharmacy Cohen Nash says they’ve had a huge jump in the number of people wanting to get vaccinated.

“This year we just got slammed with people wanting to get it, which is a good thing,” Nash says.

The pharmacy was consistently immunising people every day up until it completely ran out three weeks ago.

“People were still coming in asking for it for weeks after we ran out.”

He puts it down to heightened attention over a deadly flu strain circulating in Australia, and more awareness that pharmacists can vaccinate.

Mountain Lakes Medical’s practice nurse Emma Hughson’s noticed a lot more younger adults getting immunised.

“A lot more workplaces are paying to have their staff vaccinated because their concern is having people off sick for long periods of time.”

The centre’s rationed vaccine for people eligible for publicly-funded jabs, including the elderly, those with chronic illnesses and pregnant women.

Southern DHB says the region’s on track for an average influenza season; although the flu started spreading two months early in March.

Lakes District Hospital operations manager Janeen Holmes says there’s been a low number of presentations to the emergency department with influenza-type symptoms.

“This is similar to last year’s presentations,” Holmes says.

People are being reminded to regularly wash their hands, drink plenty of fluids and if they aren’t feeling well to stay home so they don’t spread germs.