Wanganui medical practices are on track to give flu immunisations to more than three quarters of those aged over 65 in the area this year.

Ministry of Health figures showed 17,570 influenza vaccines had been distributed in the Wanganui District Health Board (DHB) area this year by July 16.

The ministry said the number of doses sent to vaccinators was the closest approximation it had to the number of shots given.

Whanganui District Health Board medical officer of health Dr Patrick O'Connor (pictured) said hospital immunisations appeared to be up slightly up on a typical flu season.


Last year, community providers vaccinated more than 75 per cent of those aged over 65, putting Wanganui at the top of the country.

They were on track to repeat that achievement again this year. The area had been "tantalisingly close" to that 75 per cent mark for a few years now. Some practices were very enthusiastic about the vaccinations achieving nearly 100 per cent.

"It requires a certain level of enthusiasm to reach those really high rates," said Dr O'Connor.

As well as those over 65, people with certain medical conditions and pregnant woman were eligible for the free vaccine.

Dr O'Connor said flu cases around the country had been increasing over the past four weeks. There were two main circulating strains - A and B.

"Whether having the two of them will lead to a particularly active season, I don't know," he said.

The season had been busier than last year but quieter than an average year.

"It's starting to get much more active over the last three or four weeks."


The influenza vaccination period had been extended to the end of August partly because of a late start.

"People will still get benefit from late vaccination but I certainly wouldn't leave it until the end of August," said Dr O'Connor.

Ministry of Health figures show 1,188,152 vaccines had been distributed nationwide at July 16, close to the target of 1.2 million.

According to ESR's latest Influenza Weekly Update, 184 consultations for influenza-like illnesses were reported from 55 general practices nationwide in the week to July 19.

That figure was above a seasonal threshold which signalled the start and end of the annual influenza season.

South Canterbury had the highest consultation rate, followed by Canterbury.