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Older Kiwis ‘urged to get Covid-19 boosters’

As Kiwis prepare for Christmas, public health officials are recommending that people who are more likely to experience severe COVID-19, such as Māori and Pacific people aged 50 and over, as well as everyone aged 65 and older, get a booster vaccine before the holidays.

Dr Nicholas Jones Director of Public Health says New Zealand has been experiencing another wave of COVID-19 over the last few weeks with hospitalisations now back to levels seen last January.

“We are concerned that as the country heads into the summer holiday period, there will be increased social gatherings and events which could both increase the rate of infections in the population and potentially put vulnerable populations at risk”, says Dr Jones.

“As we approach the summer season of gatherings and events, a summer 2023/24 booster dose of COVID-19 vaccine is recommended for groups who are at higher risk of becoming severely ill:

    • people aged 65 and older,
    • Māori and Pacific people aged 50 and older,
    • those who have a medical condition that makes them severely immunocompromised (12 years of age and older),
    • Pregnant people who have not had any booster dose previously, have co-morbidities, or have no history of previous COVID-19 infection,
    • residents of aged care facilities, and
    • people who were recommended to receive a booster in April 2023 but have not yet done so.

    “These groups are recommended to have a summer 2023/24 booster irrespective of the number of previous doses they’ve had, so long as they have completed the initial two doses and it’s been more than six months since their last booster or COVID-19 infection,” Dr Jones says. “If you get your booster now you will reduce your risk of severe illness over the holiday period.”

    “Everyone aged over 30 continues to be eligible for a booster and people with complex health needs should also consider getting a booster, provided it has been at least 6 months since they had their last dose or had COVID-19.

    “You can receive an additional COVID-19 booster dose, regardless of how many doses you had previously. You need to wait six months between doses, and it’s recommended that you wait six months after your last COVID-19 infection”, says Dr Jones.

    Chief Medical Officer for Te Aka Whai Ora | Māori Health Authority, Dr Rawiri McKree Jansen, says if whānau are unwell, they should stay away from friends and family at higher risk of getting very sick, such as pēpi, kaumātua, immunocompromised, and disabled people.

    “It is also especially important to wear a face mask in closed, crowded or confined spaces, stay home if you feel sick and test for COVID-19, and if eligible, to take anti-viral medications as soon as you become ill with COVID-19”, says Dr McKree Jansen.

    Dr Jones says free face masks and rapid antigen tests (RATs) are still available from participating pharmacies and RAT collection sites. “When picking up free masks from your local collection centre, talk to staff about whether a medical or a P2/N95 mask is the best choice for you.

    “As COVID-19 continues to circulate in our communities, it’s important to keep up with good hygiene practices, hand washing, masking wearing, boosters and testing. People who test positive are still requested to isolate for at least 5 days and it is particularly important to stay away from those who are at risk of severe illness.”

     

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