2022 Flu season
Getting a flu jab helps reduce your risk of getting really sick or having to go to hospital.
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Every year Pharmac funds an influenza vaccine for people who meet the eligibility criteria. The currently funded vaccine for people from 3 years old is called Afluria Quad. Afluria Quad Junior is funded for children between 6 and 35 months old.
Greater risk as New Zealand reopened to the world
We were concerned that New Zealand woud be hit hard by influenza this year. With border restrictions and COVID-19 health measures in place, there has been less influenza circulating in New Zealand. This has reduced people's immunity, creating a higher risk of severe illness from flu.
We significantly widened access to the influenza vaccine this year. From 1 April 2022 it was widened for all Māori and Pacific people aged 55 to 64 to boost immunity during the 2022 flu season. This flu season, an extra 39,000 people (roughly) will be able to get a free flu vaccine.
Our clinical advisers told us that Māori and Pacific people are more at risk of serious illness from seasonal flu this year. Severe illness caused by influenza would further stretch a health system already managing the COVID-19 outbreak.
At this stage, this widened access is only funded for the 2022 season. We are seeking further clinical advice on continuing to fund this group and other options to widen access in the future.
From 1 July 2022, access was widened permanently for people with specific mental health or addiction issues. We also temporarily widened access to all children under 12 years old. We believe an additional 650,000 children will benefit from this change.
Is Fluad Quad better for over 65s than Afluria Quad?
Afluria Quad is an effective layer of protection against this season’s flu.
In 2020, our clinical experts on the Immunisation Advisory Committee said there was not very strong evidence to show that Fluad Quad was any more effective than Afluria Quad for people over 65. They said it was at least as effective as Afluria Quad and recommended that we should only fund it if it cost no more than Afluria Quad. With that advice, Pharmac put Fluad Quad on our cost-neutral priority list.
During the 2021 flu season the initial delivery of Afluria Quad was delayed, so we agreed that the supplier would provide Fluad Quad as a temporary alternative for those over 65. At the time, the supplier marketed it as a more effective vaccine.
More evidence provided
The supplier has since provided Pharmac with more evidence to support their claims that Fluad Quad is more effective for people over 65.
At their May 2022 meeting, the Immunisation Advisory Committee considered that evidence. As always, we will publish the advice to Pharmac’s website.
This year, suppliers will make available about 2 million vaccine doses. In 2021, 1.43 million doses were distributed. This additional supply will allow for a significant increase in demand.
As at 29 August 2022, a total of 1,671,772 doses have been distributed.
Planning for flu vaccine ordering and manufacturing happens many months before the start of the flu season. Flu vaccine suppliers start their planning about 12 months before the flu season starts each year. The final quantity of vaccine to be made for the season is usually confirmed by the end of September. Manufacturers can’t make more flu vaccine during the flu season if demand is higher than forecast because the manufacturers are busy making vaccine for the Northern Hemisphere season.
Who to contact
If you have questions about flu vaccine funding, email firstname.lastname@example.org