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In it goes . . . Unichem North End Pharmacy pharmacist Sarah Brown gives pharmacy assistant Jill Browne a flu jab. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

One Oamaru pharmacy is offering funded influenza vaccines to those who qualify for them, after changes to the pharmaceutical schedule were confirmed by Pharmac, the government agency that decides which pharmaceuticals to publicly fund in New Zealand.

From April 1, pregnant women and people aged 65 and over were given the option of getting a funded flu vaccine at their local pharmacy with no appointment necessary.

While there are other people who are eligible to receive funded flu vaccines, such as people with chronic conditions such as asthma, heart disease or diabetes, they will still need to go to their general practitioner to get their shot.

According to Pharmac, only pharmacists who have completed a vaccinator training course approved by the Ministry of Health and are complying with the immunisation standards of the Ministry, or a person authorised by the director-general of health, or a medical officer of health can administer vaccines.

Unichem North End Pharmacy is the only pharmacy in Oamaru that offers the service.

It is not available at Oamaru Pharmacy or the North Otago Dispensary.

Unichem North End Pharmacy co-owner Karen Stewart said the initiative would help the Ministry of Health achieve its goal of having 75% of the population immunised each year.

“It’s good .. I think it’s more convenient for people to just come in without having to make an appointment. A lot of people don’t like waiting in doctors’ waiting rooms.”

The pharmacy had handled several inquiries about the service over the past fortnight.

Mrs Stewart said with winter on the way, now was the time to get a flu shot.

“It gives you that protection against the flu. The flu can be deadly, especially for the over-65 population.”

She dispelled the notion that flu vaccines did nothing to prevent the virus, or that people could be infected with flu through the shot.

“You can’t get the flu from a flu vaccine. It doesn’t cover colds – colds and flu are two different things. That’s where people get confused, I think.”

Unichem offers the flu vaccine for $35 for those who do not qualify for the funded shot.

A jab from a general practitioner generally costs between $30 and $33.

According to the Ministry of Health, flu symptoms include fever (temperature of 38degC or higher), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, a stomach upset, vomiting and diarrhoea.

It may take between one and four days to feel symptoms after you catch influenza. The worst symptoms usually last about five days, but coughing can last up to two or three weeks.