Free shingles vaccine for Kiwi pensioners

The shingles vaccine Zostavax will be freely available from April 1 2018.
The shingles vaccine Zostavax will be freely available from April 1 2018. Photo credit: Getty

Older Kiwis can avoid shingles for free, following PHARMAC's announcement it will fully fund vaccines for pensioners.

From April 1, 2018, the shingles vaccine Zostavax will be freely available for 65-year-olds. 

A catch-up programme for people aged 66-80 will run until March 2020. 

Shingles is a painful and debilitating infection that affects one in three New Zealanders.

It's caused by the same virus as chickenpox (varicella-zoster), meaning anyone who has had chickenpox risks developing shingles, but older people are most at risk.

PHARMAC operations director Sarah Fitt says the free vaccine will make a big difference to people in their 60s and older.

"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 or years after an initial shingles attack."

Ms Fitt says the vaccine will provide "many flow-on benefits to families and whānau".

Zostavax will be available from general practices from April. Those eligible can also receive their free influenza vaccines at the same time, if they wish.

Newshub.