More nurses seek 'flu vaccination.
Subject: Vaccines (Product information)
Nurses (Beliefs, opinions and attitudes)
Influenza vaccines (Usage)
Pub Date: 03/01/2005
Publication: Name: Kai Tiaki: Nursing New Zealand Publisher: New Zealand Nurses' Organisation Audience: Trade Format: Magazine/Journal Subject: Health; Health care industry Copyright: COPYRIGHT 2005 New Zealand Nurses' Organisation ISSN: 1173-2032
Issue: Date: March, 2005 Source Volume: 11 Source Issue: 2
Topic: Event Code: 330 Product information
Product: Product Code: 8043100 Nurses NAICS Code: 621399 Offices of All Other Miscellaneous Health Practitioners SIC Code: 8049 Offices of health practitioners, not elsewhere classified
Geographic: Geographic Scope: New Zealand Geographic Code: 8NEWZ New Zealand
Accession Number: 131164604
Full Text: Although the rate of vaccination among nurses is still below 30 percent, an increasing number are getting the message that vaccination is the best protection against influenza, according to the National Influenza Strategy Group (NISG). "Influenza is a serious and highly infectious disease, with up to 20 percent of New Zealanders likely to get it this year," said Christchurch virologist and NISG member lance Jennings. "Anyone can catch it. It doesn't matter if you're normally fit and well; you're never too fit to get hit."

Christchurch Hospital paediatric oncology charge nurse Jan Millar says she's a firm advocate of influenza vaccination. "I'm usually one of the first to get my vaccination and I advocate it for our staff and families," she said.

Millar believes she has a responsibility not to knowingly put her patients at risk. "A lot of the hospital population is elderly or young and they are very vulnerable. That's why it's really important we are vaccinated to protect our patients."

Auckland City Hospital charge nurse Garry Pepperell agrees with Millar on the importance of vaccination, although he says he took some convincing. And he had to get over the myth that the vaccine can cause influenza. "I'm going to get the vaccination this year because I want to stay well Besides, I work in an infectious diseases ward so I should be a good role model."

All district health boards provide free influenza vaccination to their staff. The NISG advises nurses to check with their employer about the availability this year.

The influenza vaccination is also free until the end of June to people 65 and over and anyone less than 65 (including children) with certain ongoing medical conditions such as heart disease, asthma or diabetes. The vaccine was expected to have arrived in the country earlier this month.

Preparing for a 'flu pandemic

New Zealand is well advanced in preparing for any possible outbreak of a 'flu pandemic, according to Director-General of Health Dr Karen Poutasi. The Ministry of Health has recently signed an agreement with a major pharmaceutical company for a supply of anti-vitals. "We are buying more than 800,000 doses, sufficient to cover approximately 20 percent of the population," said Poutasi.

The World Health Organisation has confirmed 10 human cases of H5N1--largely traced to contact with sick birds--since the end of December in Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia. Experts have repeatedly warned that the H5N1 bird 'flu virus could become much deadlier if it mutates into a form that can be easily transmitted between humans. This could spark a global pandemic that could kilt millions.

New Zealand had been preparing for an influenza pandemic for some years, said Poutasi. "We were among the first countries in the world to have a national pandemic plan (2002) which we tested in a paper exercise the following year. Since then we have reworked and refined it even further, including benchmarking it against the Australian national plan."

The first batch of the new anti-viral order is scheduled for delivery in May, with the bulk of it due mid-winter.

Meningococcal vaccine update

The Meningoccoccal B Immunisation Programme hit its half million mark last month, as the programme continued its gradual roll out around the country.

The programme aims to immunise an estimated 1.1 million people under the age of 20 by the end of this year. By mid February, the number of people who had had at least close one was about 200,000, while about 130,000 people had completed the three doses. Poutasi stressed the importance of people completing all three doses in order to gain complete protection. "One or two doses are not enough."

The vaccine is currently available in the Northland, Waitemata, Auckland, Counties Manukau, Waikato, lakes, Bay of Plenty and Tairawhite District Health Boards. Provisional figures show there were 346 cases and eight deaths from the disease last year, with one death already this year.

Research to simplify vaccines

Research is now underway at the Malaghan Institute of Medical Research in Wellington to improve and simplify vaccinations. The aim of the research, headed by molecular biologist Ian Hermans, is to create "sub-unit vaccines". These use only selected parts of infectious micro-organisms to raise protective immune responses, thereby minimising side-effects.

Most vaccines consist of whole micro-organisms that have been treated to be non-infectious, and tend to activate a very broad spectrum of immune cells.

Herman's research aims to target only the cells needed to fight the targeted disease, giving a simpler vaccine that requires only a minimal response from the immune system.
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