Pharmac running low on influenza vaccines as demand skyrockets

With Pharmac having distributed a record number of influenza vaccines so far this winter, the agency says it's now running low on stock.

Pharmac said on Thursday that it had distributed 1.2 million doses of the influenza vaccine this winter, the highest number of vaccines to ever have been given out so early.

"The vaccine takes up to two weeks to be effective so it's great that health providers have been encouraging people to get in early before winter really hits," director of operations Lisa Williams said.

But the high level of demand means that while general practises, healthcare providers, and pharmacies have some vaccines, the national stockpile is running low.

"Pharmac has been coordinating with the Ministry of Health to ask healthcare providers to target the vaccines they do have in their stores to pregnant people, children, people aged over 65 as well," Williams told Newshub.

The Kiwi agency also won't be getting any help from Australia, which has also seen high demand. As the vaccines need to have the right influenza strains in them, Pharmac is limited in where they can source them.

"That means we can only buy them from another southern hemisphere market. So what we know at this time is that it is unlikely that we can source more vaccine.

"Australia has also experienced very high demand this year, and unfortunately there is no surplus stock available for us to source from Australia."

The number so far distributed is already higher than the number of vaccines distributed in 2016 and 2017, and nearly as many as the total of last winter, when 1.3 million were given out.