Over 600,000 New Zealanders will be able to avoid the often painful and debilitating shingles infection following PHARMAC’s decision to fully fund the shingles vaccine.
From 1 April 2018, the shingles vaccine Zostavax will be available fully funded for people aged 65 years, while a catch-up programme for people aged 66-80 years runs until March 2020.
PHARMAC Director of Operations, Sarah Fitt, says the vaccine will make a big difference to the one-in-three New Zealanders who will have at least one attack of shingles in their lifetime.
“Shingles can occur in people at any age but older people are the most affected and complications can be more serious and require admission to hospital,” says Ms Fitt.
“While most cases of shingles can be managed at home, these attacks can sometimes lead to other serious health complications. Some people may continue to experience pain for months to years after an initial shingles attack.”
Shingles is caused by the same virus as chickenpox, varicella-zoster. Anyone who has had chickenpox is at risk of developing shingles later in life, although the most significant risk factor for developing shingles is age.
“The shingles vaccine will help to reduce the number of serious cases, and provide many flow-on benefits to families and whānau as well as the wider health system,” says Ms Fitt.
Zostavax will be available from general practices from 1 April 2018. Eligible people will be able to receive funded shingles and influenza vaccines at the same time if they wish.
More information is available from the PHARMAC website.