Non-funded Vaccinations

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Immunisation is a well proven way of preventing serious infectious diseases, by stimulating a person’s immune system. We encourage everyone to make an informed decision regarding you and your family’s immunisation, and recommend information from reputatable sources that contain accurate, objective, relevant and understandable information, such as the Ministry of Health, the Immunisation Advisory Centre, and the World Health Organisation. We are also here to help you with our knowledge and keep you and your family healthy and safe.

Below is information on non-funded vaccinations. They are recommended but not currently funded by the government. If you would like to have a non-funded vaccination, please make an appointment with your doctor to discuss.

For pricing, please see our Fees.

Meningococcal vaccine

Meningococcal disease is caused by a bacteria called Nesseria meningitidis. This bacterium is responsible for serious life-threatening diseases including bacterial meningitis and sepsis (blood poisoning). Although we currently don’t have an outbreak, there remains to be around 100 cases per year. The highest rates occur in young children and late teenage years.

There are 5 main strains/groups, namely A, B, C, W & Y, and in New Zealand group B has historically been the most common, up to 70%. However, since mid-2017, there has been an increase of Group W to 24%, and reduction of Group B to 45% (as of November 2018).

There used to be a Group B vaccine called MeNZB and it was specially developed for NZ and used during 2004 to 2008 to help control New Zealand’s outbreak. However, it provided only short-term immunity and is not expected to have lasting protection anymore.

Fortunately, there are currently two vaccines we recommend that can protect against meningococcal disease, Menactra which protects against Group A C W & Y, and Bexsero which protects against Group B. Bexsero is newly available in NZ since November 2018, but has been used in US and UK for about three to four years. It is uncertain how long the protection will last but are expected to be at least three to five years. Please make an appointment to discuss this with your doctor.

Chickenpox vaccine

Chickenpox is a very common childhood illness causing fever and an itchy blistering rash. Adults can get it and they are particularly ill with it. It is very infectious and patients usually need to stay home for at least one week. Having had chickenpox, a person will have a 1 in 3 risk of developing shingles later in life.

Although it is now part of the funded childhood immunisation schedule, it is only for one dose when a child turns 15 months old. The efficacy of one dose of Varilrix® in preventing chickenpox of any severity is only about 70% (but is often quoted as 90% in preventing moderate or severe chickenpox), whereas two doses at least 6 weeks apart will increase its efficacy to close to 99%.

We therefore recommend children to have their first dose from as early as 9 months old (non-funded), and they would still qualify for the funded second dose at 15 months old. Although the vaccine is normally given before exposure, limited protection may be obtained if vaccinate up to 72 hours after exposure to a case of chickenpox. Please note the vaccine cannot be given if pregnant, immunosuppressed or allergic to neomycin.

See Ministry of Health for further information.

Shingles vaccine

Most of us would have had chickenpox in the past, and the virus actually hides in your nerves near the spine. When we are run down, the virus emerges and develops into shingles, which commonly appears as a painful band of blisters. Most people who had it will say it is an unpleasant illness, especially if shingles is complicated by nerve pain which can last for months to years.

Zostavax® is recommended from the age of 50 for the prevention of shingles, and only one dose is required. It is less effective in preventing shingles the older you get, but it will be good in reducing the chance of getting nerve pain, which is the most debilitating part of shingles. If you have had shingles, you can still get the vaccine but must wait until at least 6 months after an episode.

See Zostavax website for more information.

Flu vaccine

Influenza (or flu) can be a serious illness particularly in the elderly, pregnant women or people with ongoing medical conditions. The “flu jab” is therefore highly recommended and free to those groups, but everyone can benefit from it. It is an annual immunisation due to frequent change in viral strains, and the vaccine is available each year from March. Children aged under 9 having flu vaccine for the first time need 2 doses 4 weeks apart.

People who are eligible for a free flu vaccine:

  • Pregnant women (any stage of pregnancy)
  • Anyone aged 65 years or over
  • Children aged 6 months to under 5 years who have been hospitalised for respiratory illness or have a history of significant respiratory illness
  • Anyone aged 6 months to under 65 years with any of the following medical conditions:
  • Chronic heart problems, excluding high cholesterol or high blood pressure if they have not caused problems with other organs
  • Cerebrovascular disease
  • Chronic breathing or lung problems, excluding asthma if regular preventative therapy is not required
  • Diabetes
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Cancer that is not in remission, excluding skin cancers if not invasive
  • Other conditions (such as autoimmune disease, immune suppression, immune deficiency, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), transplant recipients, neuromuscular and central nervous system diseases, cochlear implant, error of metabolism at risk of major metabolic decompensation, pre- or post-splenectomy, Down syndrome, haemoglobinopathies and children on long term aspirin)

See Fight Flu website for more information.

Whooping cough vaccine

Pertussis (or whooping cough) is sometimes called the “hundred-day cough”. It can be an annoying illness for most people, but for babies under 12 months old it can be very serious. If caught at that age, half require hospitalisation with 1-2% mortality, because babies are very symptomatic, having the characteristic “whoop” when trying to breath, and can get apnoea attacks where they stop breathing. Although it is part of the childhood immunisation, the first dose starts at six-weeks-old, therefore the best protection is vaccination during the third trimester of pregnancy so that maternal immunity gets passed on to the newborn.

Pregnant women are eligible for a free whooping cough vaccine during 28 to 38 weeks of pregnancy (one for every pregnancy, as it is for the baby), as well as free flu vaccine during any stage of pregnancy (ideally start of the flu season around March/April). It is also highly recommended that close family members get vaccinated, but they are not funded.

See Immunisation Advisory Centre and Ministry of Health for more information.

Pneumococcal vaccine

Pneumococcal disease is caused by a bacteria called Strep pneumoniae, which is responsible for causing the majority of pneumonia (lung infection), septicaemia (blood poisoning) and is one of the two main causes of bacterial meningitis (the serious type). There are about 90 strains, and it normally lives in people’s nose and throat, waiting for a chance to cause an infection, usually when a person is run down such as during a viral infection like a cold or flu. Fortunately, it has been a regular part of the childhood immunisation, but its immunity wanes the older you get.

For the prevention of pneumonia (lung infection) and invasive pneumococcal disease, the government only funds a narrow group of patients including severe immunocompromised and splenectomy and recommends but does not fund people over age 65 or patients with increased risks such as COPD, see Ministry of Health.

There are two non-funded pneumococcal vaccines available, Pneumovax23 and Prevenar 13. The older and cheaper Pneumovax23 covers 23 different strains but its immunity diminishes over time because it is a polysaccharide vaccine. However, the newer and more expensive Prevenar 13 induce a superior and strong immunity with longer “memory”, but only covers 13 strains. To get the best of both worlds, it is recommended to have Prevenar 13 first to mount a strong immune response, followed by Pneumovax23 in 2 to 12 months' time to expand the strains covered. Booster dose is recommended every 5 years, but for age over 65 no booster is recommended at this stage. See for more information.

Tetanus vaccine

Although tetanus, which is characterised by very painful spasms and arched back, is now uncommon in the developed world largely due to vaccinations. It is ever present, as the bacteria Clostridium tetani and its spores are found in the soil and animals. People tend to get it through dirty wounds especially deep punctures, and doctors would normally recommend a tetanus vaccination booster in those situations.

The tetanus vaccine is part of the free childhood immunisation schedule, and the government also funds the cost of the vaccine for age 45 and 65 but not its administration fee, hence there is still a small charge. The booster is a single injection and lasts 10 years. We recommend people aged 45 or 65, as well as travellers to keep up to date with tetanus vaccine.

Hepatitis B vaccine

With hepatitis B being part of the childhood immunisation schedule since 1988, the incidence of new infection in New Zealand had dramatically reduced, but the number of people with chronic infection (carrier) remains significant, at around 100,000. Acute infection causing hepatitis is a serious illness causing fever, skin going yellow, vomiting and abdominal pain, but it is the chronic infection or carriers that is the main burden of disease, with risk of cirrhosis (liver scaring & failure) and liver cancer, and therefore requires regular monitoring. Hepatits B is usually transmitted through blood & bodily fluids, sexual activity, childbirth and intravenous drug use.

The hepatitis B vaccine is part of the free childhood immunisation schedule but is also funded for household members of patients with Hepatitis B as well as certain serious medical conditions. Although not funded, but recommended for travellers, immigrants from countries with high rate of Hepatitis B as well as people in at risk occupations, see Ministry of Health.

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