Auckland, July 23, 2022
With winter well and truly here and winter illnesses circulating, this is not the time to give up on important public health measures, a General Practitioner has said.
South Auckland-based Dr Vansh Tangri said that New Zealand’s health sector is facing increased pressure, as medical practitioners tackle winter illnesses and ongoing cases of Covid-19.
“Keeping up with public health measures helps to reduce the spread of all viruses. Stay home and rest if you are feeling unwell. Continue wearing a mask in public places and keep up with good hand hygiene,” he said.
Flu and Covid recurrence
According to Mr Tangri, getting the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent getting very sick and ending up in hospital. It can also help prevent others from getting the flu.
The flu vaccine is free for those aged 65 and over or who have underlying health conditions, like heart and lung disease, asthma and diabetes. Children aged 3-12 years old and people with serious mental health or addiction needs are also eligible for free flu vaccinations.
“If you are not sure whether you qualify for a free flu vaccine, speak to your GP or local pharmacist. Covid-19 is also still circulating in our communities, with a number of variants in New Zealand. If symptoms last more than a month, or new symptoms develop, there is a chance that you may have been reinfected by Covid-19,” Dr Tangri said.
He said that people should get tested for reinfection to stay safe and keep others, he said.
“In most cases, the current strains of Covid are resulting in mild symptoms and most people will be perfectly able to manage these symptoms at home. A booster dose is an important top-up dose to the first two vaccinations that most people had last year. It provides an extra layer of protection from the Covid-19 virus. If you had Covid-19 three months ago and did not have a booster beforehand, then you can now get that important extra protection,” Dr Tangri said.
The booster can be given at the same time or immediately after the flu vaccine. If given at the same time, you will receive the vaccines at separate places on your arms.
A second booster is now recommended for those at increased risk of severe illness from Covid-19. If you are not considered at risk of severe illness from Covid-19, a two-dose primary course and a booster dose provide very good protection against severe illness.
Second booster eligibility
The second booster should be taken a minimum of six months after your first booster dose.
Those eligible for a priority second booster include (a) people aged 65 years and over (b) residents of aged care and disability care facilities (c) severely immunocompromised people who received a three-dose primary course and a fourth dose as a first booster (noting this would be the fifth dose for these people) (d) people aged 16 years and over who have a medical condition that increases the risk of severe breakthrough Covid-19 illness and (e) people aged 16 years and over who live with disability with significant or complex health needs or multiple comorbidities
“People with heart conditions or diabetes can be especially at risk of having a worse health outcome if they get Covid-19 and or winter illnesses like the flu. They should take extra care to ensure they’re well-protected. If you are not sure whether you are due a booster, you can check your ‘My Covid Record’ online or speak to your GP,” Dr Tangri said.
You can book an appointment for a booster dose online through Book My Vaccine or call the Covid Vaccination Healthline on 0800-282926 (8 am to 8 pm all days of the week). All community vaccination centres across Auckland also accept walk-in customers.
Help round the clock
“There are lots of places to get help managing your health over winter, particularly while health services are busy. Those who are looking for initial health advice, including looking after family members, can call Healthline for free. They have medical professionals who can provide you with health advice and also let you know if you need to see a GP or need urgent care,” Dr Tangri said.
They are available 24/7 and have interpreters, so people can get health advice without leaving their homes or needing to book an appointment.
People can call Healthline on 0800- 611116, or the Covid Healthline on 0800 358 5453. Both are free. Pharmacies are also a great source of free advice on how to manage any cold and flu symptoms and advice on medications. They can also advise if they think you need to see a GP.
“In an emergency, please call 111. It is important to reach out if your condition worsens. Our healthcare services and emergency departments are here for you. If you need an ambulance when you have Covid-19, it is free,” Dr Tangri said.