Not enough vaccines ordered despite flu predictions - National

National is jabbing back at the Government over its handling of the influenza vaccine shortage.

Around 55,000 extra doses are being imported from Australia after initial stocks ran out. They'll be available from July 15.

Health spokesperson Michael Woodhouse says it has taken far too long.

"It also doesn't explain why in the face of the likelihood of a very, very high influenza season this year, they've actually ordered fewer vaccines they did in the previous year.

The Government says an extra order was made before winter, but was only approved in recent weeks.

But Woodhouse says he understands it takes time to get more vaccines.

"It's not clear to me when the order was placed. It can take several weeks for extra vaccines to arrive - I hope the ministry was diligent in doing this earlier in the winter."

Around 1.38 million people will get the jab this year, breaking previous records.

Woodhouse says the numbers do not add up.

"They actually planned for the same or fewer than last year. Predictions were there was going to be a worse flu season, population had grown."

Pharmac director of operations Lisa Williams said in early June the initial order of 1.26 million doses was "appropriate", though slightly less than the total that was distributed in 2018. She said at the time getting more stock was unlikely, as suppliers were responsible for estimating how much they'd make available. 

"The number of vaccines that has been distributed is higher than the total number of influenza vaccines distributed in 2016 and 2017 and nearly as many as the total for all of last winter when 1.3 million doses were distributed."

Demand has been high in Australia too, with no surplus stock to send to New Zealand.

Health Minister David Clark said the new shipment makes this year's immunisation scheme the biggest New Zealand has ever seen, surpassing 2018.

"That means more people than ever are getting protected against the flu."

The vaccine is free for pregnant women, those aged 65 and over and children and adults with certain serious health conditions. Pharmacies are able to provide it - but only to pregnant women and those aged over 65.