Vaccines: PHARMAC’s role

PHARMAC lists all publicly funded vaccines in the Pharmaceutical Schedule.

On this page

Unlike other medicines, PHARMAC purchases and maintains a stock of all funded vaccines. The influenza (flu) vaccine and COVID-19 vaccine are managed differently.

How we decide what vaccines to list in the Schedule

Vaccines are added to the Pharmaceutical Schedule the same way as any other medicine. Someone, usually a vaccine supplier, applies to PHARMAC to fund a vaccine.

We then convene the Immunisation Subcommittee of the Pharmacology and Therapeutics Advisory Committee (PTAC). The Subcommittee gives us clinical advice on vaccine funding applications and other matters.

Read a list of members and the minutes of the Immunisation Subcommittee

Browse the National Immunisation Schedule (Section I of the Pharmaceutical Schedule) which lists all funded vaccines(external link)

The Ministry of Health maintains the National Immunisation Schedule. It lists the vaccines that are offered free to babies, children, adolescents and adults.

Read the National Immunisation Schedule – Ministry of Health website(external link)

COVID-19 vaccine

PHARMAC was part of the all-of-government team that secured agreements for four different COVID-19 vaccines for New Zealanders. 

Read more about our role with the COVID-19 vaccine

Who can get vaccinated

PHARMAC manages eligibility for funded vaccines. We target the funding for vaccines to ensure those who will benefit most can get vaccinated.

Deciding how much to buy

Some vaccines take a long time to make (up to 18 months). This can make knowing how much vaccine to buy difficult. As we need to forecast so far in advance of when it's needed.

For example, we did the forecasting for 2020's pneumococcal vaccine in mid-2019, before the COVID-19 virus was even heard of.

We consider a range of factors when forecasting vaccine usage, including:

  • population changes
  • recent demand for the vaccine
  • any special programmes the Ministry of Health or DHBs may have planned
  • other events that might change the demand for vaccines, such as outbreaks overseas.

Vaccine distribution

PHARMAC contracts a pharmaceutical wholesaler to run the National Vaccine Store. When a vaccine supplier delivers the vaccine that we ordered, it gets delivered to the National Vaccine Store.

Depending on the vaccine, we usually hold between 4 and 6 months’ stock at any time. For many vaccines, we receive deliveries every month.

Distributing to the regions

PHARMAC also contracts a pharmaceutical wholesaler to run the Regional Vaccine Stores. These stores are located around New Zealand. The health professionals who administer publicly funded vaccines get the vaccine from their nearest Regional Vaccine Store.

Making sure there’s enough vaccine

We aim to to have a supply of vaccine available to meet the forecast demand. There may be times when unexpected changes in supply or demand affect the amount of stock we have available. We maintain a safety buffer in case of unexpected events and we work closely with suppliers to manage any supply issues.

For all other medicines (and the flu vaccine), it’s the responsibility of the suppliers to ensure there’s enough stock in New Zealand when needed.

Ministry of Health’s role

The Ministry of Health:

  • sets and monitors immunisation targets
  • provides guidance to the health sector on immunisation issues
  • keeps watch for vaccine-preventable diseases with ESR
  • communicates regulatory or public health changes to PHARMAC.

Learn more about the Ministry of Health’s role(external link)

Check out ESR’s public health surveillance data(external link)

Disease outbreaks

PHARMAC needs to have enough vaccines on-hand to deal with outbreaks.

During outbreak responses, PHARMAC generally manages vaccine supply and distribution. We work closely with the Ministry of Health and DHBs to monitor vaccine supply and distribution.

Learn more about the Ministry of Health’s emergency management process – MOH website(external link)

Who to contact

If you have any questions about PHARMAC’s role in vaccinations, email enquiry@pharmac.govt.nz