Year in Review: Preventing the spread of diseases in our communities

Ensuring people have access to vaccines for diseases like influenza, mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) and meningococcal, is how we help prevent the spread of illness in our communities.

“We know that reducing the spread of disease is important to New Zealanders, and it’s important to us too. It’s great when more people get vaccinated, especially the most vulnerable in our communities,” says Dr Pete Murray, PHARMAC deputy medical director.

In 2019/20, we widened access to the meningococcal ACWY vaccine for an estimated 35,000 people aged between 13 and 25 who live in boarding school hostels, tertiary education halls of residence, military barracks and prisons. Our clinical experts told us that teenagers and young adults in close living situations are some of the populations at highest risk of this potentially deadly disease.

Despite the COVID-19 lockdown and the supply chain issues overseas, a record 2.1 million doses of flu vaccine were made available to New Zealanders for eligible patients and private purchase. The funded doses were for people aged 65 and over, pregnant women, those with certain chronic conditions, and young children with a history of severe respiratory illness.

This record number of flu vaccines was made possible by PHARMAC and the Ministry of Health working closely with suppliers, distributors and vaccinators.

In 2020, for the first time, trained pharmacists across New Zealand could give the MMR vaccine. This makes it easier for people to get the vaccine because they can get it for free from either their pharmacy or doctor. This change also supports the Ministry of Health’s planned measles catch-up programme for 15-to 30-year-olds.