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Pharmac to fund chickenpox vaccine for all

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 30/05/2016

All New Zealand children could soon get a free dose of a chickenpox vaccine as the government's drug-buying agency looks to use its expanded budget.

Currently fewer than 1000 children meet the "high-risk" criteria to have their vaccine for the highly contagious disease - also known as varicella - paid for by Pharmac.

The drug-buying agency has now proposed using part of a recent $124 million government top-up to its budget to fund the drug for all infants and add it to the National Immunisation Schedule, along with a few other changes.

Under the change, all children would be entitled to the chickenpox vaccine Varilrix at 15 months old from July 2017.

Any currently unvaccinated children who haven't yet had chickenpox would also be able to get the shot at age 11.

"Chickenpox is perceived as being a mild disease and most often is," Pharmac said.

"However, complications such as secondary bacterial infection, pneumonitis and encephalitis occur in about 1 per cent of cases, more typically in young adults, and usually lead to hospitalisation."

In other proposed changes, the agency wants to include boys in the HPV school vaccination programme from 2017.

The vaccine for the human papillomavirus, which is spread through sexual activity and causes 70 per cent of cervical cancer, is currently only funded for women under 26 and that would be widened to include men as well.

PHARMAC Director of Operations Sarah Fitt said an 100,000 people would be immunised against the diseases if the proposal went ahead.

Consultation on the changes will now run until June 17.

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