First cell-based flu vaccine added to National Immunisation Program

Jolyon Attwooll

31/01/2024 4:45:29 PM

The locally made Flucelvax QUAD vaccine is due to be available on the NIP for certain patients from the beginning of March.

GP giving a male patient a flu vaccine.
The vaccine will be available on the NIP for certain, more vulnerable cohorts aged 5–64.

For the first time in Australia, at-risk patients will soon have access to a cell-based influenza vaccine on the National Immunisation Program (NIP). 
The vaccine, Flucelvax QUAD, will be available on the NIP for certain, more vulnerable cohorts aged 5–64 from 1 March, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people and pregnant women.
It will also be available for those in the age category with medical conditions such as: 

  • cardiac disease
  • chronic respiratory conditions
  • chronic neurological conditions
  • immunocompromising conditions
  • diabetes and other metabolic disorders
  • chronic renal failure
  • functional or anatomical asplenia
  • children aged 5–10 years in long-term aspirin therapy.
The manufacturer, Australian-based company CSL Seqirus, said the new offering will not be affected by egg-adapted vaccine virus mismatch, seen in some flu seasons. 
It also cited a study suggesting cell-based flu vaccines were around 10–15% more effective at preventing test-confirmed influenza during three recent seasons in the United States (2017–18 – 2019–20) compared to traditional vaccines.
Dr Kerry Hancock, Chair of RACGP Specific Interests Respiratory Medicine, said the vaccine will be another valuable option for those eligible. 
‘The availability this year on the NIP for those under 65 years of age of a cell-based influenza vaccine with its greater effectiveness compared to traditional egg-based vaccines is welcome news,’ she told newsGP.
‘It will provide more protection to our more vulnerable patients at higher risk of complications from influenza, especially those with chronic respiratory disease such as COPD.’
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved the vaccine for use in adults and children older than six months. 
Its availability on the NIP is more restricted, with adjuvant vaccines available on the NIP for those aged 65 and over. 
According to the latest Australian Influenza Surveillance Report, around a quarter of those aged 5–64 years were vaccinated against influenza last year.
Those aged 65 years and over had the highest rate of coverage last year (64%) by a substantial margin.
According to official statistics, 252,296 influenza notifications and 3696 flu-related hospitalisations were recorded across Australia last year.
That marks a return to pre-pandemic levels, with the border restrictions introduced due to COVID-19 prompting record low levels of influenza in Australia. 
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