chiefs.co.nz and James Mortimer 07.Apr.2013Getty Images
This year’s “killer flu” has the power to take out an entire team of burly men and their families. And the risk is one that Chiefs players are unwilling to take.
On Thursday the Chiefs rugby players, some partners and their children were vaccinated against the deadly-serious influenza strain that killed nearly 100 people in North America.
Fifty four of the 70 people vaccinated were also immunised for pertussis (whooping cough), of which there is currently a national epidemic. Last month Waikato DHB had the second highest notification rate of pertussis in New Zealand.
“The Chief’s readiness to be immunised reflects the importance of the key message “no one is ‘too fit to get hit’,” said Waikato DHB medical officer of health Dr Felicity Dumble.
“As sportsmen they are well aware of the importance of maintaining good health. The impact of being knocked off the field by either of these illnesses is huge,” she said.
Chiefs co-captain Liam Messam reiterated the team is getting immunised so they “don’t get wiped out”.
“We are at a crucial time and it’s important we are at our best,” said Liam, whose child and partner were also immunised.
Ultimately, family comes before the field. Former All Black Ross Filipo and wife Louise Filipo, pregnant with their third child, said it was a “no brainer” for the whole family to have their vaccines.
“Last year when we were in France our kids got the flu and our son wound up in hospital,” Louise said.
“It was particularly bad for him because he is asthmatic, so he ended up on steroids. We don’t want to go through that again. We’ll get our shots each year,” she said.
All pregnant women and newborn infants are at particularly high risk of severe outcomes from flu and whooping cough.
“We encourage pregnant women to ask their doctor about the free pertussis vaccine when receiving their influenza vaccine. Both vaccines are recommended and funded for pregnant women, as the viruses cause high risk to mother and baby and are circulating at epidemic levels," Dr Dumble said
Fritz Lee’s partner Amy Connell, 23 weeks pregnant, is also a firm advocate for the immunisations.
“It’s important to us to be immunised because pregnant women are more susceptible to illness. Having the vaccines ensures we’ve done all that we can to keep each other and our little one safe.
“We adults can pass whooping cough onto kids without evening knowing we have it. My whooping cough vaccine will keep our baby protected for the first five to six weeks before the baby can be immunised,” she said.
The immunisations are part of the Chiefs partnership with the Waikato DHB and Waikids (the Waikato DHB youth and children services).
“We’re excited about this partnership. We look forward to continually representing Waikato DHB in various health initiatives,” Chiefs CEO Gary Dawson said.