Pharmac confirms widened access for the funded flu vaccine

Media release Medicines

Te Pātaka Whaioranga – Pharmac is widening access to the annual funded flu vaccine to tamariki aged 6 months to 12 years, and will again offer it to Māori and Pacific peoples who are 55 to 64 years of age for the 2023 flu season.

“The flu vaccine is already free for people over 65, people with long-term conditions (like asthma and diabetes), those who are pregnant, and people with specific mental health conditions or addiction issues,” says Pharmac’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr David Hughes. “We are announcing the widened access before the flu season begins to ensure as many people as possible who are eligible for the funded vaccine are aware that they can access it.

“It has been a rough start to the year for many New Zealanders, following several years of dealing with the effects of COVID-19. We would really like to see our most vulnerable people vaccinated against flu so the impact of illness on their lives and the wider health system is minimised.”

Te Whatu Ora and the Public Health Agency have supported the widening of access due to expectations that health sector will continue to be under pressure managing hospitalisations from COVID-19 this winter.

“In 2022 we offered a free flu vaccine to children aged 3 to 12 years as we know that the flu spreads quickly between our youngest tamariki which increases the chance of them bringing it home affecting the wider whānau.

“Approximately 835,000 children will be eligible to benefit from this change, including approximately 370,000 children who are Māori or of any Pacific ethnicity. We encourage as many families as possible to get their tamariki vaccinated for free.”

“Māori and Pacific people aged between 55 and 64 years of age will also be eligible for the free flu vaccine this year, as they were in the 2022 flu season. This means that more Māori and Pacific peoples could benefit. A smaller proportion of these populations is aged 65 years or older (the age at which influenza vaccine is funded for all population groups), compared to other population groups.

“It continues to be more important than ever to boost our protection and to keep our communities safe and well, so we encourage people to chat with whānau, friends and healthcare practioner about the opportunity to get vaccinated,” concludes Dr Hughes.

The widened access to the influenza vaccine will start from 1 April 2023.