Annual flu immunisation especially important if you have cancer

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Annual influenza or ‘flu’ immunisation is especially important if you have cancer.

Influenza is not the same as a cold. It is a more serious disease that can also make other existing medical conditions worse.

Annual flu immunisation is free from a general practice for people who are actively being treated for cancer (excluding basal and squamous skin cancers if not invasive).

The impact of the flu vaccine is uncertain in people receiving these immunotherapies:

  • atezolizumab (Tecentriq®),
  • ipilimumab (Yervoy®),
  • nivolumab (Opdivo®) 
  • pembrolizumab (Keytruda®)

Your doctor or nurse should contact your oncologist or 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863) for current advice about influenza immunisation if you’re receiving the above treatments BEFORE administering the vaccine.

Free flu shots are available between April and December 31 each year. However, autumn is the best time to get your annual flu shot so you're protected before flu season strikes.

Flu vaccination is not always effective, but even if you still catch the flu after immunisation, your symptoms are less likely to be severe.

The two funded flu vaccines this year will contain four inactivated virus strains, specially formulated for the New Zealand 2019 season.

You cannot catch flu from the vaccine as it does not contain any live viruses. Some people may experience mild reactions such as muscle aches or headaches for a short time after immunisation, and they may think this is the flu – but it’s not.

Flu can be anywhere, so you can easily catch it. Being generally fit and healthy will not always protect you from the flu virus.

Immunisation is the best protection against influenza. It naturally boosts your immune system to fight the virus when it attacks.  

Get immunised to stop the spread of flu around your community.  Even if you don’t feel sick, you could still be infected with the virus and pass it on to others.  

The influenza vaccine is a prescription medicine. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist about the benefits and possible risks. And, if you’re between 65 and 80 years old, ask if you’re also eligible for free shingles immunisation.

Check out to find out whether you qualify for free flu immunisation or call 0800 IMMUNE 0800 466 863.