- Varicella vaccine – a newly funded vaccine for immune compromised people and some household contacts.
- Rotavirus vaccine - a newly funded vaccine to protect children from a serious from a serious gastric infection.
- Hepatitis A vaccine – widened funded access to prevent hepatitis A in high-risk patients
- Meningococcal C vaccine – a newly funded vaccine to prevent meningococcal C in high-risk patients
Varicella and rotavirus vaccines
From 1 July 2014, the rotavirus and varicella vaccines were added to the national immunisation schedule, along with improved versions of previously funded vaccines such as the pneumococcal vaccine Prevenar 13.
Rotavirus is a gastric infection mainly affecting children, causing illness and diarrhoea that can lead to hospital admission. In severe cases, the infection can be fatal. PHARMAC’s decision recognised that a universally funded vaccine had been sought by paediatricians. Adding rotavirus to the immunisation schedule is estimated to cost $6.3 million per year.
As well as reducing the risk of rotavirus infection for children and parents, the immunisation programme is likely to reduce demand for acute admissions to hospitals.
PHARMAC estimates that, nationwide, up to 1200 hospital admissions per year could be avoided through rotavirus vaccination.
The rotavirus vaccine is given while babies are very young – within the first eight months – and is an oral liquid that is easily administered to infants.
Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine also became funded from 1 July 2014, to protect the most at-risk patients – children with reduced immune systems (for example, because of chemotherapy). It is also funded for people in direct contact with these children, a practice known as `cocooning’.
The previous pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, Synflorix, has been replaced by Prevenar 13 for all eligible patients. Prevenar 13 offers protection against an additional three strains of invasive pneumococcal disease over its predecessor.
Meningococcal C and HPV vaccines
PHARMAC follows a robust process involving clinical advice and assessment prior to making its funding decisions. The Immunisation Subcommittee of the Pharmacological and Therapeutic Advisory Committee (PTAC) has discussed universal immunisation against meningococcal C disease several times and recommended funding for several high risk groups. This recommendation resulted in a conjugated meningococcal C vaccine and a conjugated quadrivalent meningococcal A,C,Y,W-135 vaccine being funded from 1 July 2014 for at-risk patients and close contacts of meningococcal cases. The Subcommittee has also recommended further analysis be undertaken on an initial universal vaccination at 12 years for meningococcal C plus an additional dose.
Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine (Gardasil) is fully funded for girls in New Zealand. While the Gardasil vaccine can be given to both males and females, its main benefit is the prevention of cervical cancer in women. Almost all (99 percent) cervical cancer is caused by HPV infection. Additionally, Gardasil does offer herd immunity. Herd immunity occurs when the vaccination of a significant proportion of people provides a measure of protection for individuals who have not been vaccinated.
PHARMAC initiated an application for funding HPV vaccination in males and has sought clinical advice from PTAC and its Immunisation Subcommittee. PTAC made a positive recommendation for funding with high priority for some groups of males, and with low priority for all males.
While PHARMAC is unable to provide a definitive timeframe on if or when a positive funding decision may be made in relation to these vaccines, the option of investing in them remains under consideration.
For the third year in a row, more than 1.2 million doses of influenza vaccine were distributed across the country, reaching the Government immunisation target, estimated to cover approximately 27 percent of the population.
Last updated: 10 December 2015