The benefits of immunisation

Invercargill man Allan Reynolds receives his immunisation from Invercargill Medical Centre nurse Sarah Ferguson, while his wife Pam awaits her turn.

The Southern District Health Board (SDHB) is promoting the importance of life-long immunisation for Immunisation Week.

SDHB medical officer of health Dr Keith Reid said that as people got older, their protection from earlier immunisations could begin to wear off. Their immune system may also no longer work as well, and they became more vulnerable to diseases that could be prevented through immunisation. 

Invercargill couple Allan and Pam Reynolds have been getting immunised against the flu every year since they turned 65, and they jumped at the chance to get the shingles immunisation for the first time this year. Both had chickenpox as children and, in his 20s, Mr Reynolds suffered from shingles. He mistakenly thought once he'd had shingles, he would not get it again. 

Immunisation is also important during pregnancy. Dr Reid said whooping cough was a serious disease for young babies, and immunising a pregnant woman meant her immunity would be passed to her baby, providing protection until the baby was old enough to be immunised. 

"Whooping cough spreads easily through coughing and sneezing, and we are currently experiencing a national outbreak of the disease.

Southern DHB says people should talk to their practice nurse, doctor or vaccinating pharmacist about getting protected. 

Recommended for people over 65:

•     Influenza immunisation is free for those aged 65 and older (and free for anyone with chronic conditions), and is recommended every year. Influenza is a serious illness, particularly if you are older or have an underlying medical condition.
•     Shingles immunisation is now free at age 65, and until March 31, 2020, anyone aged 66 to 80 is also eligible for a free dose of the vaccine. Shingles is a painful rash that lasts from 10 to 15 days, although nerve pain can last long after the rash disappears. 
•     The free combined tetanus and diphtheria immunisation is recommended at ages 45 and 65. Tetanus is a serious infection causing muscle stiffness, painful spasms and sometimes death. 

Recommended for pregnant women:

•     Whooping cough immunisation is free to any woman who is between 28 and 38 weeks pregnant. Babies who are sick with whooping cough may not be able to feed or breathe properly. They can become very ill and may need to be cared for in hospital.
•     Influenza immunisation is free to any pregnant women in late autumn and winter.


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