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) and COVID-19 vaccines 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 Advisory Committee. The advisory committee gives us clinical advice on vaccine funding applications and other matters.
The Ministry of Health maintains a separate list, also called the National Immunisation Schedule. It lists the vaccines that are offered free to babies, children, adolescents, and adults.
In July 2022, Pharmac took over management of the COVID-19 vaccine. We were also part of the all-of-government team that secured agreements for the different COVID-19 vaccines for New Zealanders.
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.
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.
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 Te Whatu Ora to monitor vaccine supply and distribution.
Who to contact
If you have any questions about Pharmac's role in vaccinations, email email@example.com