Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand and Te Aka Whai Ora - Māori Health Authority are urging parents, caregivers and whānau to not be complacent about the flu, with reports of more pēpi (babies) and tamariki (children) being admitted to hospital in recent weeks.


Dr Nick Chamberlain, National Director, National Public Health Service Te Whatu Ora says the flu vaccine is free for all children aged 6 months to 12 years and helps protect against four strains of the flu virus. 


“Influenza B, which tends to impact tamariki the most, is circulating in New Zealand for the first time since 2019. Tamariki are at higher risk of catching the flu and of passing it on to others, particularly other members of their whānau who may be older or have underlying health issues.  


“Now that we are well into the winter months, it’s even more important to help protect our pēpi and tamariki against the flu, especially those with respiratory diseases and other underlying health conditions. The flu can cause severe breathing problems and a child with severe symptoms may need to stay in the hospital. This impacts the wellbeing of our pēpi and tamariki and has further impacts on caregivers and whānau who may need to take time off work to care for sick children. 


“Each year, the flu vaccine that’s available covers the most expected common strains. These are different each year, so pēpi, tamariki and adults need a new vaccine every year. 


“There is a misconception that you can catch the flu from the vaccine, however this is not the case.  


“You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine that’s used in New Zealand, as it doesn’t contain a live virus. You might experience some mild symptoms, which is a sign that your body’s immune system is responding,” says Dr Chamberlain. 


Selah Hart, Maiaka Hāpori Deputy Chief Executive Public and Population Health Te Aka Whai Ora says now is a very good time to get your whānau up to date with the flu jab as well as all their immunisations. 


“It is important we protect our pēpi and tamariki who are hit hardest by winter illnesses such as the flu. The flu can be much worse than a common cold. It can be a very serious illness, particularly for older people, pēpi and tamariki, pregnant people and their unborn babies, and people with health conditions such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, or serious mental health or addiction conditions. 


By getting immunised, it is less likely that your pēpi or tamariki will catch the flu. If they do catch the flu after being immunised, their symptoms are likely to be less severe and they are less likely to experience serious complications and need to go to hospital.  


“Make it a priority to visit your hauora Māori partner, local doctor or pharmacy to make sure your pēpi and tamariki are sorted with their immunisations today.” 


You can also book flu vaccines for you and your whānau now at www.BookMyVaccine.co.nz call Healthline on 0800 28 29 26, or contact your GP, pharmacy or healthcare provider. More information about flu vaccines is available at immunise.health.nz/flu  




Editors' notes

The vaccine is free for people who are at higher risk of getting very sick from the flu including:  

  • children aged 6 months to 12 years 
  • tamariki with respiratory diseases
  • pregnant people aged 16 and over 
  • Māori and Pacific people aged 55 and over 
  • People aged 65 years and over 
  • people who have a long-term medical condition (ages 6 months+)
  • people with mental health and addiction issues.  
  • Most tamariki aged 9 years and over only need one immunisation each year to get good protection against flu.   
  • If you have a child under 9 years old, talk to your healthcare provider as they may need one or two immunisations depending on whether they’ve had a flu vaccine before.   
  • To help give you and your whānau the best protection this winter, it’s important to have a flu jab. Book your flu vaccine now at BookMyVaccine.co.nz call Healthline on 0800 28 29 26, or contact your GP, pharmacy or healthcare providers.