Chickenpox vaccine made free for kids

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The chickenpox immunisation will be free for babies from July 1 onwards, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman has announced.

"The introduction of the free chickenpox vaccine for 15-month-olds will have a significant impact on reducing the harm caused by this common disease," says Dr Coleman.

Also, children turning 11 years old from July 1 onwards can get the vaccine for free if they haven't had it, or the chickenpox virus, before.

It could save parents a lot of money, with the cost of one dose at around $65, depending on which doctor one goes to.  

"Chickenpox is a common childhood disease that is usually mild, but can lead to complications including scarring, skin infections, pneumonia, eye damage, swelling of the brain and kidney problems," Dr Coleman says.

One dose of the vaccine protects most immunised kids from chickenpox, he says.

"The few who do still catch the disease despite being immunised will be protected from its most severe effects"

"Every year, several hundred people need hospital treatment for complications resulting from chickenpox, and from time to time it can cause long term disability or death."

Chickenpox vaccine has been available for private purchase in New Zealand since 1990s, and has a long safety record internationally.