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NSW and Qld announce free infant RSV vaccines


Michelle Wisbey


25/03/2024 4:10:32 PM

The RACGP has welcomed the ‘game changing’ initiatives, with cases of the potentially deadly virus surging compared to previous years.

Stethoscope sitting on a baby's back.
Last year, 127,944 RSV cases were reported across Australia.

Thousands of infants across New South Wales and Queensland will be better protected against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), thanks to two new immunisation rollouts announced on Monday.
 
In NSW, the $3.1 million program will be immediately available to premature infants born after 31 October last year, as well as all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants born after that same date.
 
Additional high-risk, eligible infants include those with chronic neonatal lung disease less than 12 months old, and babies with combined immunodeficiency.
 
In Queensland, the State Government is aiming to have its program running by next month, with those eligible including all newborn infants, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants less than eight months of age, and those with complex medical conditions.
 
The $31 million program will see newborns offered a dose before leaving hospital, and it is understood other eligible infants and young children will be able to access the vaccine at some general practices.
 
The programs follow a similar commitment from Western Australia, announced earlier this month.
 
It comes as RSV cases continue to surge across the country, with some states experiencing almost double the number of cases than the same time last year.
 
Nationwide in February, 9338 cases of RSV were identified, compared to 3645 in 2023, with more than half recorded in NSW.
 
RACGP NSW and ACT Chair Dr Rebekah Hoffman said the vaccination program will save lives.
 
‘By immunising those infants who are particularly vulnerable to severe health impacts from RSV infection, we can keep these babies as safe as possible,’ she said.
 
‘Well done to the New South Wales Government for rolling out this immunisation, it will make such a difference in communities across the state.’
 
RSV continues to be the number one cause of hospitalisation for children aged five and under in Australia, with a quarter of these children needing intensive care.
 
Both states will use nirsevimab (sold as Beyfortus) as part of their rollouts, with clinical trials demonstrating a reduction of 83% among the number of children hospitalised with RSV-associated infections.
 
Pharmaceutical company Sanofi Australia told newsGP it has adequate vaccine supply to sustain the state rollouts, and is confident the medication will be delivered in time for RSV’s peak season.
 
Additionally, it confirmed the company is actively working towards a federally funded program which would see all infants across Australia able to access nirsevimab, to be implemented in next year at the earliest.
 
RACGP Queensland Chair Dr Cathryn Hester described the immunisation program as a game changer, with the virus being ‘incredibly traumatic’ for families.
 
‘GPs will, as always when it comes to immunisations, play a vital role, so, clearly GPs will have a key role to play here, and we look forward to learning more,’ she said.
 
‘For those families who do need to arrange an immunisation via a general practice, please be patient with practice staff as we sort through the details and figure this out.
 
‘We can’t wait to help as many families as possible take advantage of this rollout and keep babies as safe as possible. This is a great day for Queensland.’
 
Last year, 127,944 RSV cases were reported Australia-wide, causing symptoms that ranged from mild to life-threatening.
 
The RACGP is now calling on Tasmania to follow suit and introduce a free vaccination program.
 
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