Prime Minister Chris Hipkins gets two new jabs, meets Elvis, grabs a sausage to launch vaccination campaign

Both the Prime Minister and Minister of Health have received their annual flu vaccinations as well as the new COVID-19 booster shot.

Chris Hipkins and Ayesha Verrall were at Queen St Medical Centre in Upper Hutt on Saturday to receive their jabs. 

Outside, there was a community event, featuring an Elvis Presley impersonator singing as well as a sausage sizzle

"There's something strange about doing this with the media in front of you and Elvis performing in the background," the Prime Minister said shortly after receiving his vaccinations on camera.

"Sadly, we can't promise Elvis everywhere," Dr Verrall added.

The Prime Minister gets a vaccination.
The Prime Minister gets a vaccination. Photo credit: Newshub.
The Health Minister receives a vaccination.
The Health Minister receives a vaccination. Photo credit: Newshub.

Hipkins later told media that he didn't feel either vaccination.

"I knew they were happening obviously, but didn't really feel them." 

Following their vaccinations, the pair spoke with others in attendance, including Elvis, and posed for photos. 

Dr Verrall said it's "lovely" to see people getting a vaccine and at the community event.

"There are community events like this, each with their own local flavour, happening all around the country."

The Prime Minister meets with an Elvis impersonator.
The Prime Minister meets with an Elvis impersonator. Photo credit: Newshub.

Hipkins also got a sausage in bread with onions. Last week, Hipkins' Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese tried to hide from cameras while having a sausage

Hipkins said the sausage was "very good".

"What better way to start a Saturday. Getting your vaccinations, a free sausage, listen to Elvis."

He believed it was the most successful kick-off to a winter flu vaccination campaign and Upper Hutt had set a very high bar. He challenged the rest of the country to meet it. 

The Prime Minister about to eat a sausage in bread.
The Prime Minister about to eat a sausage in bread. Photo credit: Newshub.

The COVID-19 bivalent booster is now available to all New Zealanders aged 30 years and older who haven't had a booster or a positive COVID-19 test in the past six months.

"People at higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 will also be able to receive an additional booster, regardless of how many doses they've previously had," Dr Verrall said in a statement.

There are also 1.8 million flu vaccines available nationwide from Saturday to help Kiwis with the winter illness.

"Vaccination against flu is safe and will be a first line of defence against severe illness this winter," Dr Verrall said.

"We can all play a part in preventing illness that sends people to hospital, so I'm getting my flu shot today, and urge others to do the same. 

"Every winter, our hospitals and the wider healthcare system see an increase in pressure, particularly around admissions for respiratory infections and other illnesses. 

"Last year we saw a combination of COVID and the flu adding to the strain on our hospitals. This year we can help avoid that by getting boosted against COVID and getting a flu jab as well."

She said the flu can be a serious disease for those with a weakened immunity with about 500 Kiwis dying from it annually. 

"The flu vaccine reduces the likelihood of ending up in hospital if you get sick this winter," Dr Verrall said.

"The flu vaccine is free for people aged 65 years and over, Māori and Pacific people aged 55 years and over, pregnant people, and people who have long-term conditions like diabetes, asthma, or heart conditions, children aged 6 months to 12 years old, and people with mental health and addiction issues. 

"For many of us, our social lives are now back to what they were pre-COVID so it's really important to get immunised to help slow the peak of flu season and protect ourselves and our communities."

New Zealanders can get clinical advice about vaccinations from Healthline, their local doctor, pharmacies and other local health providers, Dr Verrall said. 

"In key areas of the country accident and medical clinics will be open longer, relieving pressure on EDs. We can all play a part in staying well this winter."