Unprecedented uptake of flu vaccines as New Zealand battles two viruses at once

There's been an unprecedented uptake of flu vaccines just one week into the 2022 campaign.

Public health officials are trying to avoid a perfect storm of winter ills and chills as COVID restrictions lift and borders reopen.

While the campaign was launched only days ago, early demand for flu vaccines has never been so high.

"Yeah, it has been very popular this year - we've been quite busy dealing with the flu vaccinations," said pharmacist Eric Ho.

He said people were concerned this flu season could be a bad one because New Zealand hadn't been exposed to flu viruses for two years.

"Pharmacists are saying that they've never seen quite so much demand, so already by midnight last night, 56,000 doses of the flu vaccine had been given across the motu," said Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield.

That doesn't even include doses given by GPs.

It comes as health officials prepare for a winter with COVID.

There were another 11,634 COVID-19 cases reported on Thursday and 13 more deaths, taking the total number of deaths with COVID in New Zealand to 456.

Outgoing Director of Public Health Caroline McElnay fronted up for her final media conference on Thursday and remembered the tough times.

"For me, in those early days it felt like every time I did stand up, I was announcing deaths and I know that social media for a while trolled me as Dr Death," she said.

In fact, she said it was quite the opposite.

"The death toll in New Zealand is staggeringly low," Dr McElnay said. "Our death rates in New Zealand are an indication of the success of the response that we had."

While COVID cases were trending downwards, they won't go completely, she said.

"We anticipate that we'll have a long, grumbling tail of COVID that we might see some spikes along the way."

A tail the Government will be taking a close look at as it reconsiders a move to the orange traffic light setting next week.