Health Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman welcomes the introduction of free chickenpox vaccination for 15 month olds, beginning on 1 July.
“The introduction of the free chickenpox vaccine for 15 month olds will have a significant impact on reducing the harm caused by this common disease,” says Dr Coleman.
“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.
“One dose of chickenpox (or varicella) vaccine is funded for children turning 15 months of age on or after 1 July 2017. This will protect most immunised children from chickenpox. The few who do still catch the disease despite being immunised will be protected from its most severe effects.
“While most people catch chickenpox as children, those who catch the disease as adults are at much higher risk of serious illness. For this reason, children turning 11 years of age from 1 July onwards who have neither had chickenpox or been immunised against it will also be eligible for a free dose of the vaccine.
“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 that have included the vaccine on their immunisation schedules have seen dramatic reductions in the number of people needing hospital treatment for chickenpox complications.
Chickenpox vaccine has been available for private purchase in New Zealand since 1990s, and has a long safety record internationally.