Rush cleans out chickenpox vaccine supplies

BRONWYN TORRIE
Last updated 12:58 23/05/2013

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Stocks of a chickenpox vaccine have run dry after an unexpected rush by parents to get their children immunised.

Drug company GlaxoSmithKline has notified medical centres throughout the country that the Varilrix vaccine would be temporarily out of stock for the next few weeks.

''This situation is because of the phasing of planned vaccine shipments and uncharacteristically high demand recently for varicella vaccine across New Zealand,'' paediatric vaccines product manager Melissa Rich said in a letter.

There had been a 37 per cent increase in vaccine update compared to this time last year, general manager Anna Stove said.

''We believe that this has been driven mainly by recent media news around the importance of parents considering vaccinating against chicken pox & that Pharmac are considering funding this vaccine.

''Winter is also the start of 'chicken pox' season, so the increased sales may be purely a phasing issue.''

Chickenpox - or varicella - vaccines are not funded.

However they are available from doctors and cost between $50 and $100 depending on how many doses are needed.

Doctors have been calling for a chickenpox vaccine to be added to the list of free immunisations given to all children.

The Ministry of Health was advised to add a vaccine to the schedule four years ago.

That decision was now before the Government's drug-buying agency Pharmac, which took control of the National Immunisation Schedule last July.

There is an alternative vaccine available called Varivax, but it is only recommended for babies aged 12 months and over, according to MedSafe.

It is also suitable for older children and adults, but they need two doses.

The unavailable Varilrix vaccine can be given to babies from the age of nine months.

It can also be given to children and adults but two doses are needed no matter what age they receive it.

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