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Pneumococcal Vaccination Funding Welcomed

Media Release 9th May 2007

Immunisation Advisory Centre.
University of Auckland.


Pneumococcal Vaccination Funding Welcomed


The Immunisation Advisory Centre is very pleased the important vaccine against pneumococcal disease is finally to be included in New Zealand’s free childhood vaccines. Each year there are around 150 cases of pneumococcal meningitis and septicaemia (blood poisoning) in children under 5 years old. These cases result in approximately 10-11 deaths and 13-26 cases of severe long-term disability. The vaccine is capable of preventing a large proportion of these cases, as well as significantly reducing rates of pneumonia.


“The pneumococcal vaccine has been highly effective in overseas programmes, and has an excellent safety profile” says Dr Nikki Turner, Director of the University of Auckland’s Immunisation Advisory Centre.


Furthermore, this vaccine works for the whole community, particularly reducing disease in the elderly. Vaccinating infants effectively reduces the bug being carried in children’s throats, which leads to significant reduction in spread of the disease to the broader community as well.

The Immunisation Advisory Centre is disappointed however, that no additional funding has been made available for other vaccines which were under consideration, notably the Human Papilloma Virus (Cervical Cancer) vaccine and the Varicella (Chickenpox) vaccine.

The currently licensed HPV vaccine protects against virus strains that lead to around 70% of cervical cancer. Despite current prevention programmes, around 60 women die of this disease each year. Introducing a funded vaccine programme would be a positive step for women’s health. “While the screening programme has reduced the impact of cervical cancer there remain significant inequities for women particularly Maori and Pacific women, and those from more deprived areas. A universal adolescent vaccination programme is particularly important both to reduce disease overall, and to reduce the inequity gap for women” says Dr Turner.

Having shown excellent effectiveness and safety data from large clinical trials, the HPV vaccine is now available on many immunisation schedules such as Australia and the USA.

Chickenpox (Varicella) infections hospitalise 150-200 children every year. Children with weakened immune systems such as cancer survivors are particularly at risk of severe chicken pox and not being well protected currently in our community. Varicella vaccine prevents infection and reduces the spread of the disease in out communities. We are not looking after our most vulnerable children well currently.

Varicella vaccines have been available for a long time on many national immunisation programmes such as the USA and Australia. For example it has been available since 1998 in the USA, and has shown excellent disease reduction.

“New Zealand is falling even further behind many of our Western counterparts in protecting our children from preventable disease” states Dr Turner

ENDS

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