Children will get more protection from pneumococcal disease with the launch today of the new childhood Immunisation Schedule.
The schedule is the series of free immunisations offered to all babies and children in New Zealand. It is updated every three years to include new and improved vaccines that protect against 11 preventable diseases.
From today, premature babies and children with medical conditions that put them at high risk of becoming seriously ill with pneumococcal disease will be offered a vaccine that provides protection against 13 instead of 7 strains.
All other New Zealand children will be offered a pneumococcal vaccine that protects against 10 instead of 7 strains from later this year, once supplies of the existing vaccine run out.
Babies and young children with pneumococcal disease can get very sick with ear infections, pneumonia or meningitis. Some die.
Disease rates in the under-twos have halved since a pneumococcal vaccine was first added to New Zealand’s Immunisation Schedule in 2008.
The other key change to the Schedule is that babies from fewer countries will need tuberculosis immunisation.
Immunisation is one of the Government’s six Health Targets. Currently about 90 percent of New Zealand children have had all the recommended immunisations by their second birthday.
The Target is to reach 95 percent by July 2012 – a level that provides community immunity or protection for everyone from outbreaks of diseases like measles.
Increased immunisation rates are already contributing to significant improvements to children’s health. This is important because it means that the amount of long-term disability caused by these illnesses is also reducing.
The new Immunisation Schedule is attached. More information can be found in the new Immunisation Handbook available online at www.moh.govt.nz/immunisation or by contacting the Immunisation Advisory Centre free helpline 0800 IMMUNE (0800 466 863).
Contact: Michelle Quirke, Immunisation team, 021 806 021 or (04) 816 4399