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Access To Life Saving Pneumococcal Vaccine

6 July 2006

Access To Life Saving Pneumococcal Vaccine Must Be Extended Beyond Just Families That Can Afford It: Meningitis Trust

The Meningitis Trust today repeated its call for the Government to ensure all children had access to the potentially life saving pneumococcal (pronounced new-mo-cockle) vaccine after learning it was now available to the private market.

“Whilst we’re delighted that the pneumococcal vaccine ‘Prevenar’ is now available for children under 2 years, we’re reiterating our call for the Government to make it available too all relevant children – not just those who are considered ‘at risk’ or whose parents can afford it,” General Manager of the Meningitis Trust, Fiona Colbert, said.

The Health Minister Peter Hodgson said in a speech last week that ‘children should not be admitted to hospital for avoidable conditions’. Pneumococcal disease is an unavoidable condition. However until the Government makes the Prevenar vaccine available free of charge to all families, babies will continue to be admitted to hospital with this deadly disease.”

Pneumococcal disease is a leading cause of meningitis, bacteraemia, pneumonia and bacterial otitis media [middle ear infection]. Every year, up to 500 New Zealander’s are diagnosed with severe pneumococcal disease – 150 are infants. The incidence is significantly higher in Maori and Pacific Islanders communities at 214.5 per 100,000 (1994 Voss).

“The Government should provide this pneumococcal vaccine free of charge through the national immunization schedule as many parents will simply not be able to afford the $400 or so it will cost to purchase the pneumococcal vaccine privately,” Ms Colbert said.

Ms Colbert said the Meningitis Trust was calling on the Government to include Prevenar on the national immunization schedule when it makes its decision on the 2008 list. Doing so will maintain with the cost effective vision it has for the Health System in NZ A briefing will be held at Parliament House later this month to make members aware of the urgent need for Prevenar to be included.

“We simply cannot afford to wait another three years for this vaccine to become available. Many other countries including Australia, Canada, the US, UK, France, Greece and the Netherlands have already implemented universal access programs. It is time for the New Zealand Government to do the same to ensure the health and wellbeing of our children,” she said.

For more information visit www.meningitis-trust.org.nz. Fiona Colbert is available for interviews. –

ENDS


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