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Government kicks off massive flu vaccine campaign with 400,000 extra doses

As New Zealand grapples with the coronavirus epidemic, the Government has kicked off its annual influenza vaccine campaign earlier than usual.

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The Prime Minister said later this week up to 1500 tests could be done per day. Source: 1 NEWS

It's hoped by preparing for the flu, it'll help manage the damage for hospitals during the Covid-19 outbreak.

As part of the push, around 400,000 more flu vaccines will be available this year compared to last year.

It'll be free for people who are pregnant, 65 or older, young children with a history of severe respiratory illness and people with certain chronic conditions, as well as healthcare workers.

Health Minister Dr David Clark is urging people to get the jab and get it early.

"Our strong advice is to get your flu vaccine early this year to protect yourself, your family and your colleagues against the spread of the flu," he said in a statement this morning, adding that they're prioritising people "who are most at risk".

"Getting your vaccine will reduce your chances of catching the flu, and improve our ability to manage higher demand at hospitals from Covid-19."

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There is some utter nonsense doing the rounds, so Seven Sharp and Dr Michelle Dickinson investigate what’s not true. Source: Seven Sharp

People who aren't in the priority groups are asked to wait until April 13 to get vaccinated, so providers can focus on people at greatest risk.

The vaccine won't protect you from the coronavirus, which is an entirely different type of disease.

But if fewer people get sick from the flu, it'll free up beds in hospitals and curb demand on the health system as they continue to battle Covid-19.

Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter says there's been a huge demand for the flu vaccine across the world this year, saying the Government has "done well" in securing more doses than ever.

"Our healthcare workers are the heart of our health system and it is right we ensure they are able to continue working throughout the winter," she says.

"To make sure this happens I have asked DHBs to actively target people who qualify, including healthcare workers. This will include aged care workers, as well as doctors, nurses, and hospital staff."

The Government has also launched a major public health campaign to educate New Zealanders about simple steps everyone can take to help prevent the spread of the virus. $10 million has been allocated for this campaign.

Dr Clark encourages people to make sure they're following good health procedures such as coughing and sneezing into your elbow, washing your hands frequently and staying home if you're sick.

There are 12 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in New Zealand, in Auckland, Wellington and Dunedin.