PHARMAC proposing to add rotavirus, varicella vaccines
to national immunisation schedule
A vaccine for the gastric infection rotavirus and protection
from varicella for the most vulnerable people are among proposed
changes to the national immunisation schedule that PHARMAC is
seeking feedback on.
Rotavirus and varicella vaccines are not currently funded, says
PHARMAC's Medical Director Peter Moodie. Already 14 vaccines are
funded in New Zealand and PHARMAC is managing the national
contracting process for the first time, including looking at
options for widening access to existing vaccines or listing new
New Zealanders would have added protection from infections in
the community if the proposals were implemented, says Dr
"New Zealanders' access to funded vaccines would continue to
improve under these proposals," says Dr Moodie. "In many cases
vaccines offer our best defence against infection in the community,
so this is an important process for people to be involved in.
Having put together this proposal, we now want to hear from people
what they think."
Rotavirus is a significant illness in young children leading to
many children ending up in hospital, says Dr Moodie.
"We estimate that, based on available data, as many as 1200
fewer hospitalisations of young children would occur each year, as
a result of funding this new vaccine."
Features of the proposals include:
- Rotavirus vaccine would be added to the funded list, funded for
all eligible patients
- Varicella (chickenpox) vaccine would be funded to protect the
most at-risk patients - children with reduced immune systems (for
example, because of chemotherapy). The vaccine would also be funded
for people in direct contact with these children (`cocooning')
- pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (Prevenar 13 - Pfizer) would be
listed for all eligible patients from 1 July 2014. PCV13 offers
additional protection against Invasive pneumococcal disease,
compared to the previously funded PCV10;
- Listing of improved versions of the current meningococcal
vaccine, changing to a conjugated meningococcal C or meningococcal
A, C, Y and W135 vaccine.
Another significant change proposed is expanding eligibility
rules so that children whose immune systems are weakened, for
example by chemotherapy, will be able to have further vaccine
boosters funded. This would be for 10 vaccines.
Dr Moodie says the proposals follow PHARMAC receiving clinical
advice from its expert immunisation subcommittee and PTAC, and
running a competitive process among suppliers. The expert
committees had looked closely at the clinical evidence for
varicella, and recommended funding only for highest-risk
"It is still possible that other vaccines could be added to the
schedule outside the three-yearly contracting cycle," says Dr
"PHARMAC continues to be open to new information on vaccines and
will use this to make any appropriate changes to access in
Dr Moodie says PHARMAC expects further evidence will become
available about the impact of varicella vaccine on zoster infection
(shingles), which mainly affects adults. When new evidence becomes
available, PHARMAC would seek the view of its expert clinical
advisors at its earliest opportunity, he says.
Public submissions on the consultation can be made at
www.pharmac.govt.nz and close on 20 November. If approved, changes
to the Immunisation Schedule would take effect from 1 July