Kiwis over 65 are confused because of conflicting advice about whether to get the Covid-19 vaccination or the flu jab first, says an advocacy group.
Under Ministry of Health guidelines, those in line for their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine will need to wait at least five weeks before getting the flu jab.
One district health board has encouraged younger Kiwis to front up and get the Covid-19 vaccine because of the number of people over 65 who had opted to get the influenza jab first.
So, which life-saving jab should New Zealanders prioritise?
A Ministry of Health spokesperson told the Herald: "Get your Covid-19 vaccination first if you have an appointment booked for it. If you do not have an appointment to get your Covid-19 vaccination, you can get your flu vaccinations first."
But an Aged Care Association spokesman said there had been confusion and different advice about which vaccine older New Zealanders should prioritise.
"There was a lack of clarity and that was concerning," he said.
The Ministry recommends a three-week gap between the two Covid-19 vaccines and then two-week break before getting the flu vaccine.
"Having a gap between the different types of vaccinations makes it easier to judge which vaccine may be responsible for any side effects."
The ministry was not aware of any adverse effects concerns related to receiving flu and Covid-19 vaccines at the same time. However, consumers and healthcare professionals should inform the Centre for Adverse Reaction Monitoring (CARM) if they have experienced an adverse reaction, the spokesperson said.
Yesterday, Northland District Health Board (DHB) begun inviting those over 50 to get their first dose of Covid-19 - which will mean they have to wait five weeks to get their flu jab.
People do not need to register first and those attending will need to bring their NHI number if they know it, and water and snacks in case they need to wait, a DHB spokesperson said.
Northland DHB chief executive Nick Chamberlain said the Ministry of Health's Covid-19 vaccination sequencing framework was flexible.
"Understandably, people want to have their influenza vaccination first because if they choose to have their Covid-19 vaccination first, it would be some five weeks before they could have their flu immunisation."
"This has reduced the number of people eligible for Covid-19 vaccination now, so Northland DHB offers anyone 50 years and older the Covid-19 immunisation to minimise the risk of vaccine waste."
Taranaki DHB was encouraging those aged 65 and older to get their flu jab first before waiting two weeks to get their first Covid-19 jab.
While the influenza vaccine does not protect against coronavirus infections, it will help prevent a serious illness that causes hundreds of deaths each winter in New Zealand, the DHB said in a statement.
The influenza immunisation was recommended and free for people who were most likely to get very sick, be hospitalised or even die if they catch influenza, Taranaki DHB chief medical adviser Greg Simmons said.
"Influenza continues to be a major threat to public health worldwide because of its ability to spread rapidly through populations," Simmons said.
Those aged 65 and older, disabled people, pregnant woman and those with underlying health conditions – will be able to access the Covid vaccine from May - and in some parts of the country, such as Northland and South Auckland, it was already being made available.
University of Otago immunologist Associate Professor James Ussher said if you were in a high risk groups - including the elderly and pregnant woman - then you should aim to get the Covid-19 vaccine first.
"Although for a lot of people if the flu vaccine is available now and they can get it then they should because it's still going to be a reasonable wait until they can get the Covid vaccine."
He said there was no doubt rolling out the Covid-19 vaccines and the flu jab at the same time was going to be a "logistical challenge".
"These aren't easy decisions for the ministry, this is an unprecedented situation obviously and there's no easy way to organise it."
Tish Taihia, clinical midwife manager at Nga Hau Mangere, said the flu jab was more of a priority for pregnant woman, compared to the Covid vaccine, because influenza was more prevalent in the community.
There have been some concerns generally around the Covid vaccines but pregnant mums remained divided - some groups really want it and others are still unsure, Taihia said.
Those receiving a measles (MMR) booster would have to wait four weeks after getting the Covid vaccine, under advice from the Ministry of Health.
The gap is longer than the flu jab as the MMR is a live vaccine.