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‘No time like the present’ for Queensland RSV vaccine rollout


Morgan Liotta


12/03/2024 3:11:54 PM

The college is urging the state to follow Western Australia’s lead with a ‘lifesaving’ immunisation program.

Mother holding sick, coughing baby
Queensland has recently seen more year-round cases of RSV among babies, adding to the challenge of managing the virus, according to the RACGP.

Last week the RACGP welcomed Western Australia being the first jurisdiction to rollout a respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine for infants aged under eight months.
 
Now, the college is calling on the Queensland Government to follow suit by introducing a free, state-wide RSV vaccination program, after The Courier Mail reported that the state’s Health Minister, Shannon Fentiman, is ‘actively considering’ a rollout.
 
RACGP Queensland Chair Dr Cathryn Hester said this decision would save lives and prevent hospitalisations from the highly contagious virus, with around 6000 Australian children presenting to hospitals each year.
 
‘The Queensland Government has already done a tremendous job announcing free influenza vaccines for this year’s flu season as well as funding meningococcal B vaccines for kids and adolescents,’ Dr Hester said.
 
‘So, the time to act on RSV is now, particularly when you consider that the number of children aged nine and under hospitalised [in Queensland] with this virus leapt from 1961 cases [in 2022] to 3161 last year.
 
‘This is a virus that puts otherwise healthy kids in hospital … every single year.’
 
RSV is the number one cause of hospitalisation for children aged five and under across the country, with one quarter of those requiring intensive care treatment.
 
‘I’m sure anyone can imagine [this] is a horrible experience for any family to go through even if their child turns out to be okay,’ Dr Hester said.
 
‘I urge my home state to follow Western Australia’s lead and get this vaccination into as many arms as possible right away.
 
‘By doing so, we can not only keep kids out of hospital and save families a nightmare-inducing ordeal, but also put in place a vaccination rollout that will relieve pressure on the entire health system, including our hospitals.’
 
Rather than respiratory viruses becoming more common during the winter months, Queensland has less defined seasons than other jurisdictions across Australia. More recently, Queensland has seen year-round cases of RSV, which adds to the challenge of managing the virus, according to the state’s RACGP Chair.
 
She said many families also may not be aware of how severe RSV can be for otherwise healthy infants, with symptoms ranging from mild to life-threatening.
 
‘We know that babies under six months of age are the ones most prone to develop severe symptoms, including lung infections that can lead to hospitalisation,’ Dr Hester said.
 
‘RSV must be taken seriously. By rolling out this vaccine, we help keep babies safe.’
 
For this year, there have been 17,208 notifications of laboratory confirmed RSV reported to the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System as of 8 March, including 4489 in Queensland.
 
In total, 127,944 cases were reported across Australia in 2023.
 
Clinical trials of nirsevimab have demonstrated a reduction of 83% among the number of children hospitalised with RSV-associated infections.
 
Dr Hester has urged Minister Fentiman to consider adding the RSV vaccine to the state’s immunisation program as soon as possible.
 
‘There is no time like the present to get this rollout started and save lives,’ she said.
 
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Dr James Shunxian Wei   14/03/2024 10:09:13 AM

Isn't Nirsevimab a monoclonal antibody, NOT a vaccine? I think it might be important to make the distinction.