Queensland should follow WA with free RSV vaccines: RACGP, AMA

4 minute read

Queensland is ‘actively considering’ rolling out free respiratory syncytial virus immunisations for infants, says health minister.

The RACGP and AMA Queensland are pushing the state health minister to follow in Western Australia’s footsteps by rolling out free RSV immunisations for babies.   

Nirsevimab (Beyfortus) was approved by the TGA in November as a one-off injection to prevent RSV-related lower respiratory tract disease in all infants entering their first RSV season and for children up to 24 months of age who remain vulnerable to severe RSV disease through their second RSV season.  

Last week, WA announced that it would be funding the rollout of the RSV immunisation to protect infants across the state. 

Queensland’s government is now “actively considering” following in WA’s footsteps, Queensland’s Health Minister Shannon Fentiman told The Medical Republic.  

“I know that thousands of Queenslanders are hospitalised with RSV every year and it can be a very serious virus, particularly for infants, all year round,” said Ms Fentiman. 

“I am a strong advocate for vaccination, which is why I have already announced free flu vaccines for this year’s flu season and funded meningitis B vaccines for infants and teenagers.” 

RACGP Queensland chair Dr Cathryn Hester applauded Queensland’s “tremendous” record at rolling out vaccines and encouraged the minister to “follow Western Australia’s lead”. 

“The time to act on RSV is now, particularly when you consider that the number of children aged nine and under hospitalised with this virus leapt from 1961 cases the year before last to 3161 last year,” she said. 

“Unlike other states and territories, Queensland unfortunately has year-round cases of RSV as we do not have predictable seasons, and this only adds to the challenge of managing this virus.  

“There is no time like the present to get this rollout started and save lives.” 

While RSV is often manageable with mild symptoms, the common respiratory infection can lead to hospitalisation and “must be taken seriously”, said Dr Hester. 

“As Minister Fentiman would be aware, RSV is the number one cause of hospitalisation for children aged five and under across the country.  

“A quarter of those hospitalised kids need intensive care treatment, which as I’m sure anyone can imagine is a horrible experience for any family to go through even if their child turns out to be okay.” 

 Dr Hester urged her home state to “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.” 

Speaking to ABC Radio Brisbane last week, AMA Queensland president Dr Maria Boulton agreed that Queensland would be wise to follow WA. 

While she was unsure when Queensland would rollout the vaccine, she said that the AMA would continue to push for it. 

“It’s been around overseas and it is TGA approved,” she said. 

Dr Boulton added that another RSV vaccine, Arexvy, is currently approved for adults over 60, but only through private access. 

According to information provided by the ATAGI, “if you’re over the age of 75, if you’re Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander over the age of 60, or if you’re over the age of 60 and have any risk factors for severe RSV, so, for example, heart disease, lung disease, neurological disease, then you should definitely see your GP for a script,” said Dr Boulton. 

“However, I’m not seeing it available at the pharmacists yet, so we are asking for people to be patient.  

“It is coming, but it’s not freely available yet.” 

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