Millions of New Zealanders could miss out on flu vaccinations during COVID-19 pandemic

Hundreds of thousands of additional flu vaccinations are being rolled out in New Zealand as healthcare workers brace for flu season to hit in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

But despite the increased vaccines, so much more demand is now anticipated that the vaccines are being prioritised for vulnerable groups.

A quick little jab and a lollipop. Ramesh Sahrawat has done this hundreds of times for staff and at-risk patients, but usually the Health Minister isn't watching quite as closely.

A huge new Government campaign has jab-season kicking off two months early.

"It's a way of keeping our workforce healthy because when the situations are dire and we do have higher numbers, we need to be able to care," Hutt Valley DHB associate clinical nurse manager Susan Cartwell says.

Available from Wednesday, 400,000 additional vaccines are being rolled out for free to the over-65s, pregnant women, those with chronic conditions and children with respiratory illnesses.

Everyone else has to wait a month to get theirs, which they'll pay for.

And with a total of 1.77 million vaccines, unless Pharmac can get its hands on more, three million Kiwis could miss out.

"I can give you an assurance that we are prioritising those who are in vulnerable situations," Health Minister Dr David Clark says.

But National's health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says it's not enough.

"They should act now and get as many as they can in. Much better to have more than we need in than not enough," he told Newshub.

Flu vaccinations don't work against COVID-19, but they could help to reduce the strain on hospitals as the flu season hits.

That's also the aim of a $10 million public information campaign calling for Kiwis to unite against COVID-19.

While the fight against COVID-19 may see New Zealanders physically isolated from each other, the new campaign urges people to still stay connected - and to simply be kind, by dropping off supplies to the sick and checking in on the elderly.