Call for more meningococcal vaccines to be included in Pharmac funding boost

The Meningitis Foundation is urging Pharmac to widen immunisation against the deadly infection when the government boosts the drug-buying agency’s funding.

The Post reported on Friday that at least $600 million over four years was on the table for Pharmac.

RNZ understands ministers will canvas a range of proposals and figures, with an announcement to be made soon after it is signed off.

Meningitis Foundation chair Gerard Rushton said the organisation was calling on the government to make access to both meningococcal vaccines, as well as the pneumococcal vaccine, free for all young people under the age of 25.

The meningococcal B and ACWY vaccines are currently only funded for children up to 12 months of age, and young people aged 13-25 in close-living situations like boarding school hostels and university halls of residence.

The pneumococcal vaccine is funded for children aged 2-5.

Others have to pay about $150 for the vaccines.

“We need to vaccinate across the board to best protect our rangatahi,” Rushton said.

“The current approach is patchy at best, the eligibility criteria are confusing, and the current approach is ultimately ineffective.”

Rushton said the extra funding would bring New Zealand back in line with other OECD nations, which spent an average 1.4 percent of GDP on publicly financed pharmaceutical spending, while New Zealand currently spent 0.45 percent.

“We know Pharmac is seeking to fund wider immunisation against meningococcal meningitis, and the reported funding boost gives them the opportunity to do so.”

There were 13 cases of meningococcal meningitis in the year to June.

Pharmac’s Immunisation Advisory Committee has also recommended that eligibility for the meningococcal ACWY vaccine be widened to those who are eligible for Community Services Cards, as well as their dependants.

Rushton said that could see up to 700,000 additional households become eligible for vaccination, including 200,000 Māori and 80,000 Pasifika households.

The symptoms of meningococcal meningitis in adults and children include:

  • A stiff, sore neck
  • A sensitivity to light, or a dislike of bright lights
  • A severe headache
  • Being difficult to wake, drowsy or confused
  • A fever, sometimes accompanied by cold hands and feet
  • Aching, sore joints
  • Vomiting
  • Convulsive fits or seizures
  • A rash that does not go away when pressed with a glass (although not everyone who gets meningococcal meningitis gets a rash).

If you suspect someone has meningitis, seek urgent medical attention by seeing your doctor or calling 111 immediately.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

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