Leading flu expert calls for nationwide rethink on New Zealand's influenza strategy

A leading flu expert is calling for a nationwide rethink on our influenza strategy, warning it currently is not adequate.

Dr Nikki Turner of the Immunisation Advisory Center says New Zealand should move from individual flu shots to mass immunisations.

"Our current influenza strategy is what we would call individual protection, so I get vaccinated to protect myself, however if you are un-vaccinated you can easily spread the virus to me," she says.

She says immunising large groups of the population would protect us all.

About 400 New Zealanders die each year from flu, or its complications.

A deadly strain is sweeping the northern hemisphere right now.

"I would encourage all of us from the Ministry (of Health) down, all health care providers, and the community to think of us as a community not as individuals."

An example infectious diseases expert Professor Raina MacIntyre uses is "all the workers in a nursing home are vaccinated, that would provide some immunity to the residents.”

Dr Turner says we need to focus on children who spread the flu.

"When we have better vaccine technology when we don't have to vaccinate with a needle every year, I think the way to move would be every child every year ultimately. Possibly with a vaccine you squirt up the nose, or even with a patch on the arm."

But there are questions over what to do when the flu virus mutates quickly, and whether you can make everyone vaccinate.

The Ministry of Health says it reviews its proposed response to influenza annually.

Dr Nikki Turner says New Zealand should move from individual flu shots to mass immunisations. Source: 1 NEWS