Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says this year’s theme for the annual immunisation week is ‘ensuring teenagers and older children are immunised.’
“Immunisation week gets underway today, and is a good way to raise awareness of the benefits of immunisation to both the individual and the wider community,” says Dr Coleman.
“This year’s theme is a reminder of the importance for older children and teens to either maintain the protection of their first immunisations or catch up on any they may have missed out on.
“As this group transition from childhood, it is also a reminder that they need a further round of immunisations to help protect them against diseases they may encounter as young adults.”
Free immunisations are recommended at around age 11 to 12 to protect against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough and human papillomavirus (HPV). Diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough vaccine is available free from general practices for those aged under 18, and HPV is available free for those aged under 27.
“Measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) immunisation is free for anyone born from 1 January 1969 who hasn’t had two recorded doses of the vaccine. It’s recommended at 15 months and 4 years, but some teens missed these when they were young,” says Dr Coleman.
“Measles and mumps are serious diseases, and immunisation is the best protection available against them. There has been a recent increase in mumps in Auckland, which is mainly affecting school and tertiary students.
In 2016, 101 people caught measles in New Zealand, and 29 of them needed hospital treatment.
“In Budget 2016 the Government invested an extra $124 million to enable Pharmac to further increase access to new medicines. Pharmac has widened access to chickenpox vaccinations, making them free for 15 month olds from 1 July this year,” says Dr Coleman.
“Chickenpox is often a mild disease, but can lead to significant complications resulting in several hundred people hospitalised each year. I’m very pleased that we can now protect our young children from this disease.”
New Zealand’s infant immunisation rate for eight month olds have increased significantly in recent years to almost 94 per cent. Support from midwives, nurses and doctors has been an important factor in this increase.