New opportunity for pharmacists to offer childhood immunisations

Update Kauneke Update

More New Zealanders will be able to get their vaccinations at pharmacies close to their homes and communities thanks to a collaboration between Pharmac and the National Public Health Service at Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora.


From 1 April 2024, Pharmac removed a restriction from the Pharmaceutical Schedule to enable eligible pharmacies to order and claim reimbursement for giving certain childhood vaccines.

Pharmac’s Director, Pharmaceuticals, Geraldine MacGibbon, says the collaboration with Health New Zealand boosts the number of health providers who can give fully funded vaccinations.

“It will allow pharmacies to offer childhood immunisations, increasing opportunities for whānau to access free immunisations in their communities.”

Health New Zealand Director, Prevention, Alana-Ewe Snow, says childhood immunisation rates have declined in recent years and access is one of the reasons why. She says the aim is to have 95% of children immunised by 2030.

“Childhood immunisation rates in New Zealand have historically been below the required 95% target for immunisation coverage. This means that there is significant risk of a vaccination preventable disease outbreak, such as measles.

“Community pharmacies create another option for whānau to get vaccinated in their communities, particularly for those who can’t access or aren’t enrolled with a General Practice. We expect that vaccinating community pharmacies will work closely with their local general practices, Hauora Māori, and Pacific providers to ensure that babies continue to access important health screening such as the six-week medical check through General Practice. 

“Health New Zealand is working with pharmacies and local immunisation teams to implement this change, and so far, 12 pharmacists have completed the whole-of-life upskilling training and 6 of these are authorised to give childhood immunisations under supervision. We’re conscious that this is a busy time of year for the health sector and anticipate a steady uptake of the training over the coming months.”

The decision joins a number of other changes Pharmac has made to the Pharmaceutical Schedule to help increase the vaccinator workforce.

“In August 2022, we enabled authorised pharmacists to administer the diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis vaccine (Boostrix). In 2023, we made similar changes to include the human papillomavirus virus (HPV) vaccine, meningococcal vaccines, and the varicella zoster vaccine for shingles,” says MacGibbon. “As of May 2024, over 40% of pharmacies have administered at least one of these vaccines.”

“We’re excited to be able to add childhood vaccines to these changes. Pharmac has an important role to help improve the health outcomes for New Zealanders, so working with Health New Zealand to increase vaccination rates across the motu is a great opportunity.”

More information: 

The decision to remove restrictions to childhood vaccines was made following a joint consultation by Health New Zealand and Pharmac earlier this year, which received feedback from across the health sector and members of the public. 

The feedback raised lots of important considerations and highlighted the desire across the sector to improve childhood vaccination rates.

Pharmacist vaccinators who wish to offer childhood immunisations can access a funded training package to become an authorised vaccinator, meaning they can administer vaccines to anyone from 6 weeks of age. Once pharmacists have upskilled to authorised vaccinators, participating community pharmacies will be able to start providing childhood immunisations.

The free training package Extending Vaccinator Skills (Whole-of-Life) is now available on the IMAC website(external link). The onboarding guide and checklist are available on the Health New Zealand website(external link) under “Immunisation Service”.

This story is part of our Kauneke Update 

The Kauneke Update will keep you informed on important news and progress towards Pharmac's strategic goals. In te reo Māori, kauneke means to develop and move forward.