Influenza is a severe vaccine-preventable disease
Influenza is a vaccine-preventable disease that can lead to serious acute respiratory illnesses and other complications. Influenza viruses are widespread in wild avian species and infect several animal species in addition to humans. Constant evolutionary changes to the influenza virus make the disease challenging to control. In November 2014, the Immunisation Advisory Centre held New Zealand’s inaugural Influenza Symposium (NZiS) to focus upon influenza and vaccine strategies in New Zealand. International and local experts discussed advances in vaccine effectiveness, safety and disease prevalence and impact. Disease surveillance and vaccine effectiveness studies are identifying those at greatest risk from influenza to target vaccination campaigns. Influenza vaccine safety is closely monitored in order to improve public confidence. In New Zealand, around 27% of the total population are vaccinated against influenza annually, with 67% coverage for those aged 65 years and over who are eligible to funded vaccine. Seasonal influenza vaccination is vigorously promoted each year to help to improve vaccine uptake. However, there are inequalities in disease impact, with the elderly and very young, socioeconomically deprived and those with Māori and Pacific Island ethnicity remaining at-risk of serious disease and hospitalisation, which may be addressed by further improving access to influenza vaccine.