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Special clinics in Otago will begin delivering the free swine-flu vaccine from today for those considered most at risk of contracting the illness.
The monovalent (single-strain) pandemic vaccine is expected to be offered to up to 150,000 people across New Zealand.
Those eligible for the two-dose vaccine are health workers who may have direct contact with at-risk patients, pregnant women, or people under 65 with underlying health conditions including obesity, chronic, respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, renal disease and cancer.
The Ministry of Health is recommending that those in these groups have the vaccine, followed by the seasonal influenza vaccine which will be designed to protect against swine flu and two other flu strains.
That vaccination is expected to be available in March.
Those receiving the monovalent vaccine will have two doses three weeks apart.
Otago and Southland medical officer of health Dr Marion Poore said the two district health boards were keen to offer early protection against swine flu to those who needed it most in case the next wave of the H1N1 virus arrived earlier than usual.
In Dunedin, clinics for at-risk patients and identified healthcare workers will be held at the breast-screening clinic on floor one of the ward block at Dunedin Hospital today, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of this week, between 5pm and 7.30pm.
Identified healthcare workers will also be able to receive vaccinations at a clinic in the orthopaedics outpatients department at Dunedin Hospital on Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday from 3pm to 5pm.
The second-dose clinics will be held from February 23 to 26 and March 2 to 5.
Other clinics will be held in Oamaru (from February 17), Balclutha (from February 15) and at Dunstan Hospital (February 8).
Details of these have not yet been confirmed.
In Southland, general practices will be delivering the vaccine with extra clinics at Southland Hospital, Lakes District Hospital and Gore Health for health workers.
Anyone unsure of whether they are eligible or requiring further information about the Otago and Southland clinics should contact their family doctor or practice nurse.