6 Mar 2013

Doctors in favour of free chickenpox, rotavirus vaccines

9:25 pm on 6 March 2013

Doctors are calling for chickenpox and rotavirus to be added to the list of free vaccines for children.

The technical advisory group of Pharmac met on Wednesday to discuss which injections should be available for free from 2014.

Immunisation Advisory Centre immunisation research director Helen Petousis-Harris told Radio New Zealand's Nine to Noon programme the vaccines have been recommended before but others got prioritised.

She said one in 43 children under five are hospitalised with rotavirus and eight times that number will see their GP.

Dr Petousis-Harris said they are not seen as extremely serious childhood diseases, but nearly everyone will get them.

But an anti-immunisation campaigner says Pharmac should not add chickenpox, rotavirus and flu vaccines to the list of free jabs for children.

Hilary Butler, who created the Immunisation Awareness Society, said the flu vaccine has just been suspended in Australia because of high rates of seizures in children.

Ms Butler said the chickenpox inoculation increases the number of shingles cases in children and the risk of seizures when combined with the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine.

She believed it would be useless to give the rotavirus vaccine to breast-fed babies, as they are already immune to the disease and the vaccine.