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Fight against pneumococcal meningitis gets funding

Hon Hodgson Media statement:

Fight against pneumococcal meningitis gets funding - Pre Budget statement

From next year every baby born in New Zealand will be eligible for a free vaccine to fight against pneumococcal meningitis.

The Government has announced it will spend $68 million over the next four years to fund Prevenar vaccine, and add it to the National Immunisation Schedule.

"Last year I met with some of the parents and children who have endured this terrible disease. While no vaccine can offer 100 per cent guarantee, vaccination is our best chance to prevent illness, disability or death in our young.'' Health Minister Pete Hodgson said.

New Zealand has relatively high rates of pneumococcal disease, particularly among Maori and Pacific children. Last year 151 children under the age of five contracted pneumococcal invasive disease.

"A year ago I was in the position to thank the New Zealand primary health workforce, in particular the nursing workforce, for the successful roll-out of the Meningococcal B programme. The health workforce is an essential to give the youngest members of society the very best start in life. This investment will enable that workforce to strengthen that support of our families and their tiniest members."

All babies born in New Zealand from January 1 next year will be eligible to receive the vaccine at six weeks, three months, five months and 15 months through their GP or Primary Health Organisation. Vaccinations will begin in June 2008 and the schedule will be adjusted for the age when the baby is first vaccinated.

"This is a safe, effective vaccine with a proven track record in a number of other countries. Since its introduction in the United States in 2000, invasive pneumococcal disease caused by the targeted strains, has fallen 94 per cent. Vaccinating infants against the disease has also been found to reduce the rates of the disease in the parents and grandparents of vaccinated children. This type of 'herd protection' may result in direct medical savings in terms of reduced hospital stays and treatment costs, and can lead to a significant reduction in mortality for adults,'' Pete Hodgson says.


- An Auckland study in 2000/01 found the annual rates of invasive disease (this includes septicemia and meningitis) in children under two were 191 per 100,000 with Maori and Pacific children having rates of 296 and 217 per 100,000 children respectively.

- The same study found the rate of pneumococcal meningitis in children under two years was high with a rate of 30 per 100,000 in all children and rates of 43 per 100,000 and 49 per 100,000 in Maori and Pacific children respectively.

The vaccine does not prevent all pneumococcal illness but it does prevent more than 80 per cent of the types children are admitted to hospital with.


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