National | Hauora

Free flu shot for tamariki, second Covid booster for kaumātua, vulnerable

From Friday, another 800,000 New Zealanders will be eligible for a free flu shot with the government expanding current criteria to include children (three to 12 years old) and people with serious mental health or addiction needs.

Health Minister Andrew Little says the change is a response to the number of people getting the flu this winter, putting more pressure on the public health system.

“In recent weeks we have seen a number of pre-school children hospitalised with the flu. We also know children can be transmitters of the flu to others in their family who are more at risk, so it makes sense to reduce transmission as much as we can.

“We also know that people with serious mental health or addiction needs can get seriously sick from the flu, which is why we’re also extending flu vaccinations to this group this year."

Meanwhile, Covid-19 Response Minister Ayesha Verrall has confirmed a second Covid-19 booster shot is available for people over 50.

The second booster dose should be offered six months after the previous dose and postponed for three months after a Covid-19 infection.

Māori, Pasifika over 50

Verrall says it’s recommended anyone over the age of 65, as well as Māori and Pacific peoples older than 50 and people who are severely immunocompromised get another boost. However, a second booster dose is not recommended for anyone who is pregnant and is healthy, including those with no underlying health conditions that could increase the risk of severe Covid-19.

“Staying up-to-date with the recommended Covid-19 vaccinations will continue to protect you from the risk of serious illness, hospitalisation or death,” Verrall said.

“The Ministry of Health’s Covid-19 Vaccine Technical Advisory Group will continue to review new information on Covid-19 and vaccines and will make further recommendations on eligibility criteria as necessary.

“The combination of Omicron and flu is making this winter more challenging than normal. The best thing New Zealanders can do to ensure they and their families don’t end up in hospital is to be up-to-date with their flu and Covid-19 vaccinations and boosters,” Verrall said.