A recent spike in COVID-19 cases is a reminder for people who are at high-risk to make sure they’re up to date with their COVID-19 booster and to use antiviral medications early if they are infected with the virus.
Director of Public Health Dr Nick Jones says recent data suggests New Zealand is experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases, based on increases in wastewater results, case counts, and deaths.
“We will continue to see fluctuations in COVID-19 cases and deaths, as it is still present in the community. These waves are likely due to people’s immunity waning, and the introduction of new hybrid variants which increase the community’s susceptibility.”
The people who are most likely to benefit from another COVID-19 booster include:
• anyone aged 75 and older
• Māori and Pacific people aged 65 and older
• People aged 30 to 74 with significant complex health needs
• People aged 16 and older who are severely immunocompromised.
People need to wait six months between doses, and it’s recommended that you wait six months after your last COVID-19 infection.
Dr Jones has this reminder: “If you are unwell, stay away from friends and family at higher risk of getting very sick, such as babies, older people, immunocompromised and disabled people.
“It is also especially important to wear a face mask in closed, crowded or confined spaces, and if eligible, to take anti-viral medications as soon as you become ill with COVID-19.”
Antivirals are free for those who meet the criteria. This includes:
• all people over the age of 65
• Māori and Pacific people over the age of 50
• people with compromised immune systems and
• those with long term health conditions.
To access antivirals, talk to your doctor, pharmacist or hauora provider.
“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,” Dr Jones says.
“COVID-19 is still circulating in our communities and these steps can help protect those most vulnerable over the holiday season.