Year in Review: Vaccines

PHARMAC has been involved in the procurement of vaccines since 2004 and has been managing the National Immunisation Schedule since 2012.

During the 2018/2019 financial year, there were two significant infectious disease outbreaks: a meningococcal W outbreak in Northland in November 2018, and a measles outbreak in Canterbury in March 2019.

In the 2018/2019 financial year, PHARMAC secured over 25,000 meningococcal W vaccines for the Northland outbreak, with approximately 15,000 used in the outbreak response. In the 2018/2019 financial year, PHARMAC distributed 230,000 Measles, Mumps and Rubella (MMR) vaccines around the country, including 54,000 to Canterbury. The amount typically used in New Zealand is 144,000 per annum.

In the 2018/2019 financial year, funding of the pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine was widened to include pregnant women in the second and third trimester of their pregnancy, as well as parents or primary caregivers of infants admitted to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit or Specialist Care Baby Unit for more than 3 days. Infants cannot be vaccinated against pertussis until 6 weeks of age, but they can get some protection against pertussis from maternal antibodies if their mother was vaccinated during pregnancy. 

There was a record demand for influenza vaccines, with 1.33 million vaccine doses being distributed by the end of June 2019. This was the highest number of influenza vaccines ever to have been distributed so early in winter.

Influenza doses distributed by season day, cumulative all brands


Number of influenza doses.
Season day: The Ministry of Health defines the “influenza season” as the period between 1 April and 31 December. Prior to 2019 there wasn’t a standard definition of “influenza season” and so we worked on the basis that the season started the day that the vaccine arrived in New Zealand from the supplier.