It’s strange to think that we are now entering the third year of COVID. As New Zealand is moving to living with COVID instead of elimination, it is a timely reminder to maintain hygiene practices and continue to reinforce to stay home if unwell.
New Zealand is reopening its borders to the world and with that comes the potential for increased COVID cases, new variants, and influenza. 2020 saw a near extinction of Influenza and RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) in New Zealand which Professor Michael Baker contributed to mask wearing, social distancing, and lockdown – these measures had led to “a revolutionary change in thinking about how to deal with respiratory pathogens”. When the Australia travel bubble launched in 2021 New Zealand experienced a very large spike in RSV cases which was is thought to have been caused by this bubble.
Medical experts across New Zealand are expecting the 2022 flu season to hit New Zealand hard with the lack of influenza in the community in 2020 and 2021. The lack of exposure has lowered immunity and results in a higher risk of severe illness from flu. This could also lead to increased infection rates across New Zealand with the lower immunity leading to influenza spreading in the community more easily.
Overseas there has been an increase in the concern of people being infected with influenza and COVID at the same time – this has been dubbed “flurona” or “twindemic”. Although infections of both COVID and influenza have been low it is still concerning to see. Reports from overseas indicate that COVID becomes the predominant virus so the best step you can take to protect yourself and boost your chances of a good outcome in case of infection is to get vaccinated.
The New Zealand Ministry of Health advises that influenza and COVID immunisations (Pfizer and Astra Zeneca) can be given at the same time – there is no need to leave a gap between these doses. Working Wise is offering vaccination clinics and vouchers this year. Working Wise is using the Afluria Quad vaccine which offers protection against the flu strains listed below.
- A/Victoria/2570/2019 (H1N1) pdm09-like virus (A/Victoria/2570/2019 IVR-215)
- A/Darwin/9/2021 (H3N2)-like virus (A/Darwin/6/2021 IVR-227)
- B/Austria/1359417/2021-like virus (B/Austria/1359417/2021 BVR-26)
- B/Phuket/3073/2013-like virus (B/Phuket/3073/2013 BVR-1B)