Opinion: Why don't more New Zealanders get the flu vaccination?

Just get the shot, please
Just get the shot, please Photo credit: Getty

OPINION: Shoot me now. I need to be shot.

We are fast approaching that time of the year when illness can hit you like a bus and take you out of normal proceedings for days, if not weeks.

I'm about to line up at work to be shot with the 2018 flu vaccine.

I never used to bother with all of that prevention stuff. I always thought it was older people who got the flu and given my relatively bulletproof track record, it certainly wasn't a priority.

But then everything changed. Maybe my super powers of invincibility were beginning to wear thin. I contracted pneumonia two years in a row.

Like the flu, pneumonia is infectious, and it completely stuffs you. I was in bed for several weeks in each case, unable to help my family with anything.

I didn't know how I'd come to contract such a debilitating illness. I hadn't gone around the local supermarket licking trolley handles and I was pretty fastidious when it came to washing my hands after a day of EFTPOS machines, door handles and all the other surfaces frequented by the nose-pickers and bum-scratchers of New Zealand.

This year's flu season is being picked to be three times worse than last years and just like pneumonia, there are vaccines that may protect you.

About one in four New Zealanders are infected with flu each year. Of those, up to 80 percent of the people with the virus had no symptoms - which means you or I could be feeling amazeballs, but passing the virus onto friends and family.

New Zealand health experts say deaths are likely, which is in line with what has been seen in the Northern Hemisphere. It was only back in 2009 when 49 people died here as a result of contracting the A(H1N1) flu virus.

We are incredibly lucky to live in a country that allocates a great deal of flu vaccines at no charge to specific demographics; pregnant woman, those over 65, those with chronic conditions, and children under five who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness are all eligible for a free flu shot.

Our health authorities have updated this year's flu vaccine to include immunisation against the life threatening flu strain A (H3N2), nicknamed 'Aussie flu'.

There is a certain amount of irony when it comes to what we will and won't do in order to decrease risks and to increase survival.

There is plenty of research to suggest that riding my bike with my helmet firmly attached to my head is a lot safer, and yet some still choose to not wear one.

Many still act like a Red Bull stunt crew in the bedroom, raising the likelihood of catching all kinds of infections rather than choose from a plethora of prophylaxis.

The risks are known and yet some still choose to take their chances.

If you have any doubt about the science or safety around the flu vaccine, or any other vaccine for that matter, talk to your doctor or even do some research for yourself by reading independent reports on websites such as www.immune.org.nz.

Every medication comes with risks and benefits. Do us all a favour and get shot this flu season.


Roman Travers is a broadcaster for RadioLIVE.