Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Pharmac confirms chickenpox vaccine for all kids

Funding has been extended for a chickenpox vaccine to all children. Photo / iStock
Funding has been extended for a chickenpox vaccine to all children. Photo / iStock

Pharmac has confirmed it will extend funding for a chickenpox vaccine to all children and make an improved HPV vaccine funded for males under 26 years old.

The drug-buying agency says the changes will benefit an extra 100,000 people.

It had already announced the proposed changes, but has now confirmed the new spending:

• From January 1 2017, boys and girls will be included in the HPV school vaccination programme in the 2017 school year, and access will be widened to HPV vaccination for women and men up to the age of 26.

• From July 1 2017, the varicella (chickenpox) vaccine will be funded for all children as part of the childhood immunisation schedule. The vaccine is currently funded for children with certain risk factors.

Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman welcomed the funding decision.

"The [HPV] vaccine will be changed from a vaccine that protects against four HPV serotypes to one that covers nine.

The change increases protection against cervical cancer from 70 per cent to 90 per cent.

"These changes will mean the number of doses required for 14 year olds and under will be reduced from three to just two."

In Australia, the HPV vaccine is government-funded for boys and girls. Gardasil can protect against four strains of HPV - human papilloma virus - that can cause pre-cancerous lesions in the genital tract and mouth, and genital warts. It has been offered to New Zealand girls partly to help reduce cervical cancer.

Rates of throat-related cancers have risen sharply since the 1980s and HPV, from oral sex, is thought to be the cause.

More than 200,000 New Zealand females have received the vaccine since 2008.

Other changes to the currently listed vaccines including brand changes and a move to a 2-dose schedule for vaccination against rotavirus.

May's Budget boosted Pharmac's budget by $124 million over four years. The Government said DHBs would also give an extra $11 million towards Pharmac's budget next year.

- NZ Herald

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