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A decision has been made to allow pharmacies to offer childhood immunisations, which will increase opportunities for whānau to access free immunisations in their communities.


National Director, National Public Health Service, Dr Nick Chamberlain says that childhood immunisation rates in Aotearoa New Zealand have historically been below the required 95% target for immunisation coverage.


“We are now approaching 81% of all tamariki and specifically 66% of tamariki Māori being fully immunised, meaning that there is significant risk of a vaccination preventable disease outbreak, such as measles. Hence, we must try some new things.”


The National Immunisation Taskforce report published in 2023, highlighted that one of the biggest barriers is access to vaccinators.


“Strengthening our utilisation of community pharmacies across the motu creates another option for whānau to get vaccinated in their communities, particularly for those who can’t access or aren’t enrolled with a General Practice. Over time, these changes will also support an increase in the vaccinator workforce, should these skills be needed for future outbreak or pandemic situations,” says Nick Chamberlain.


This decision was made following a joint consultation by Health New Zealand – Te Whatu Ora and Pharmac earlier this year, which received feedback from across the health sector and members of the public. Following a review of the submissions received, Pharmac’s Board has approved removal of a restriction from the relevant vaccines, which will enable pharmacies to deliver them.


“Pharmac has an important role to help improve the health outcomes for New Zealanders, and we are pleased to be able to work with Health New Zealand to increase childhood immunisation rates,” says Pharmac’s Director, Pharmaceuticals, Geraldine MacGibbon.


“We want to thank everyone who took the time to respond to the consultation. The feedback raised lots of important considerations and highlighted the desire across the sector to improve childhood vaccination rates. This information has been incredibly valuable in helping Health New Zealand to refine its implementation plan.”


Pharmacist vaccinators who wish to offer childhood immunisations will be able to access a funded training package to become an authorised vaccinator, meaning they can administer vaccines to anyone from 6 weeks of age. Once pharmacists have upskilled to authorised vaccinators, participating community pharmacies will be able to start providing childhood immunisations.


Dr Nick Chamberlain says that while pharmacy will provide another option for immunisations, this is intended for those who aren’t enrolled or cannot access their GP.


“We expect that vaccinating community pharmacies will work closely with their local general practices, Hauora Māori and Pacific providers to ensure that babies continue to access important health screening such as the six-week check through General Practice. After providing the immunisation, pharmacists will be asked to refer parents and caregivers back to General Practice, as it will remain the preferred place to get childhood immunisations.


“We are also working with General Practice leadership on how practices can be separately supported to continue precall, recall and where appropriate, referral to outreach or other providers irrespective of who is providing the immunisation,” says Nick Chamberlain.


A summary of the consultation feedback can be found on the Pharmac website.






Health New Zealand | Te Whatu Ora media contact: hnzmedia@tewhatuora.govt.nz