Free chickenpox vaccine available for babies

Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman said funding the vaccine would help to significantly reduce the harm caused by chickenpox. Photo: iStock
Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman said funding the vaccine would help to significantly reduce the harm caused by chickenpox. Photo: iStock

From Saturday free chickenpox vaccines will be available to 15-month-olds and 11-year-olds who have not had the disease.

In June last year Pharmac confirmed it would extend funding for a chickenpox vaccine to all children from July 1, 2017. The varicella (chickenpox) vaccine would be part of the immunisation schedule - until now it had only been funded for children with certain risk factors.

One dose of the vaccine will be available for free to children turning 15 months of age on or after July 1.

This will protect most immunised children from chickenpox and the few who do still catch the disease, despite being immunised, will be protected from its most severe effects.

Although most caught the disease as children, those who got it as adults were at much higher risk of serious illness so, from July 1, children turning 11 who have neither had chickenpox or been immunised against it will also be eligible for a free dose of the vaccine.

Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman said funding the vaccine would help to significantly reduce the harm caused by chickenpox.

"Chickenpox is a common childhood disease that is usually mild, but can lead to complications including scarring, skin infections, pneumonia, eye damage, swelling of the brain and kidney problems," he said.

"Every year, several hundred people need hospital treatment for complications resulting from chickenpox, and from time to time it can cause long-term disability or death."

Countries such as the United States and Australia included the vaccine on their immunisation schedules and had seen dramatic reductions in the number of people needing hospital treatment for it.

The chickenpox vaccine has been available for private purchase in New Zealand since the 1990s.

Chickenpox symptoms

  • ┬áSmall blisters, like a rash, on your skin, which can be very itchy
  • Tiredness
  • Fever
  • General aches and pains

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