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



Homeowners warned mortgage rates could jump if share market turmoil spills to interest markets

The Reserve Bank is warning Kiwis with mortgages to be prepared as they could face big hikes in loan repayments if renewed instability in global share markets spills over to the international interest rate markets.

Volatility returned with a vengeance to world share markets this week, with Wall Street down slightly again overnight. 

For now, New Zealand's central bank is unfazed, delivering an upbeat assessment of the economy today, while leaving the official cash rate on hold again at 1.75 per cent, due to weak local inflation. 

"While these forecasts were closed off ahead of the recent equity market volatility, at this point we would see no reason to alter the forecasts," said Grant Spencer, Acting Reserve Bank Governor.

However, Mr Spencer is warning that should the share market turmoil spread to global interest rate markets, it would have a much bigger impact as he says they are a crucial source of funding for local banks.

"It is a bit of a warning shot that there could be more volatility down the track." 

And Mr Spencer says Kiwis on fixed mortgage rates should now be thinking about how they would cope if their interest rate spiked by two per cent. 

"It's no particular forecast, but to say if you can handle another two per cent then that gives you a bit of comfort."

Westpac's economists aren't seeing any sign of fixed mortgage rates creeping up just yet.  

But they agree they are likely to go up over time and borrowers are right to be cautious.  

"I do think Grant Spencer makes a good, broader point though that today's interest rates aren't going to last forever, " said Dominick Stephens, Westpac Chief Economist.

However Mr Stephens doesn't share the Reserve Bank's rosy outlook on the economy.

"Our concern is that Government policies aimed at slowing the housing market will work, but gosh that's going to have a flow-on effect to the wider economy," he said.

And Mr Stephens says when it comes to the Reserve Bank's official cash rate, it's likely to have to stay lower for a lot longer than forecast. 

The bank says New Zealanders could face big hikes in loan repayments if the turmoil spills over to the international interest rate markets. Source: 1 NEWS

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New Zealand company trialling a four day working week

A New Zealand company will be trialling a long weekend, every weekend for the next six weeks. 

Trust company, Perpetual Guardian, will be testing the 32 hour week with their 230 employees.

The catch? All the work they do in a week must be done within a four day week.

OECD figures show there is room for improvement when it comes to the productivity in New Zealand and this model which has been successful in Europe, could be the answer. 

Andrew Barnes of Perpetual Guardian believes if they get it right, the productivity will go up, saying "An engaged workforce is a happy workforce."

It's hoped the change will be as good for business as it is for workers. Source: 1 NEWS


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