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Prevenar Vaccine will be seriously considered

Media Release

26 July 2006

Prevenar Vaccine will be seriously considered by Ministry of Health

The Ministry of Health is assuring New Zealanders that a vaccine preventing pneumococcal meningitis is being given serious consideration for inclusion in the National Immunisation Schedule.

The National Immunisation Schedule is reviewed every two years and was last changed 1 February 2006. The National Immunisation Programme's Immunisation Technical Working Group will begin a review in August 2006, to consider probable changes to the schedule for 2008.

Dr Alison Roberts, Senior Advisor of Public Health Medicine says, "Prevenar is one of six new vaccines to be considered when the review begins next month."

"It was first considered by the ImmunisationTechnical Working Group in 2003 but the decision at that time was the completion of the Meningococcal B Immunisation Programme was the priority for New Zealand. Funding of the Prevenar vaccine continues to be of high importance to the Ministry," says Dr Roberts.

"It's important that all parents are aware that they are able to vaccinate their children against pneumococcal meningitis, through their GP or Primary Health Organisation at their own cost until such time as there is funding available to provide it to all children."

Dr Alison Roberts says a small number of children who are at high risk of pneumococcal disease are now able to receive funded vaccine and the Ministry will gradually be able to increase the eligibility of the pneumococcal immunisation to other at-risk children.
Pneumococcal disease is not easily passed from person to person so close contacts, including siblings do not receive antibiotics. Siblings or other close contacts of individuals who have developed pneumococcal meningitis are not currently funded to receive the vaccine.

"Invasive pneumococcal disease, caused by a bacteria, presents as meningitis, bacteraemia and is a frequent cause of ear infections in young children and pneumonia in all age groups. But young children are particularly at risk of contracting pneumococcal meningitis," says Dr Roberts.

The Ministry is concerned about the numbers of children contracting pneumococcal invasive disease. Last year 152 children under the age of five years contracted the disease, and from 1 April 2005 to 30 June 2006 there were 31 children reported to the New Zealand Paediatric Surveillance Unit with pneumococcal meningitis.

The Immunisation Technical Working Group will take this into consideration and prioritise the pneumococcal vaccine alongside the other new vaccines that have become available in New Zealand.

ENDS


Background Information -

The Prevenar vaccine is currently funded for some children at high risk for invasive pneumococcal disease. Children with high-risk conditions under 5 years of age on immunosuppressive therapy or radiation therapy, or have primary immune deficiencies, HIV, renal failure or nephrotic syndrome, or receive organ transplants, or have cochlear implants or intracranial shunts, or have chronic CSF leaks, or are on corticosteroid therapy for more than two weeks, at daily dose of prednisone of 2 mg/kg or greater, or a total daily dosage of 20mg or more, are all entitled to receive the Prevenar vaccine free of charge.
Children aged 0-16 years who are pre or post-splenectomy or with functional asplenia may also receive prevenar.
The Prevenar vaccine will be considered by the Immunisation Technical Working Group next month, along with the HPV vaccine Gardasil, the Rotavirus, Meningococcal C, Hepatitis A and Varicella vaccines.

For background information please refer to the 2006 Immunisation Handbook available on the Ministry's website www.moh.govt.nz

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