Thousands set to benefit from PHARMAC funded chickenpox vaccine

Media release Medicines

Thousands of children a year are set to avoid chickenpox infection, with flow-on benefits to families and the wider health system, after the varicella vaccine which prevents chickenpox is funded from 1 July 2017.

Chickenpox causes a prominent rash, itchiness and feelings of ill-health, and can cause scarring and complications that can require hospital treatment.

One dose of chickenpox vaccine will be free from 1 July 2017 for children aged 15 months (that is, children born from 1 April 2016). It will also be free for children turning 11 years of age from 1 July 2017 who have never been infected with or previously immunised against chickenpox.

About 60,000 children are born in NZ each year and all will be eligible for the funded vaccine.

PHARMAC Director of Operations Sarah Fitt says the decision will have wide benefits for children, their families and the wider NZ health system.

“For most children chickenpox is a mild illness, but it is highly infectious and can cause serious complications. It also causes disruption to families through time off work and school, and through people having to give up activities to care for sick children,” she says.

“As well as benefits to children and their families and whānau, it will lead to a reduction of about 9600 GP visits each year, about 2400 fewer hospital emergency department visits, and approximately 250 hospitalisations.”

This was seen in Australia where the hospitalisation rate for children with chickenpox-related complications reduced 75% after the introduction of a universal varicella vaccination.