Experts hope the government will act quickly on the recent announcement.
A new vaccine for pneumococcal disease in children could soon be added to the National Immunisation Program.
The Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC) has recommended that Vaxneuvance be added to the national program, saying the decision was in part due to the cost-effectiveness of this 15-valent conjugate vaccine compared to the existing 13-valent one.
“Vaxneuvance offers serotype coverage to help prevent pneumococcal disease caused by 15 S. pneumoniae serotypes, including serotype 3, which continues to be a significant cause of invasive pneumococcal disease in children,” said Dr Gary Jankelowitz, MSD Medical Director, in a statement.
By targeting 15 serotypes, Vaxneuvance offers a greater level of protection against pneumococcal disease compared to other currently available vaccines.
Professor Robert Booy, an infectious diseases paediatrician at the University of Sydney, told The Medical Republic it would be appropriate for children who have already received the two- and four-month doses of Prevenar to continue receiving Prevenar or switch to Vaxneuvance partway through the course, should the new vaccine be added to the National Immunisation Program.
Dr James Best, chair of the RACGP’s specific interest group for child and young person’s health, welcomed the recommendation but emphasised the need to wait for further advice from ATAGI regarding if and how Vaxneuvance will replace – or be used in conjunction with – existing vaccine options.
A spokesperson from the Department of Health and Aged Care echoed the comments from Dr Best, noting “other processes also need to be completed before a vaccine can be given final approval for NIP listing… [including] negotiations with the relevant pharmaceutical company; finalisation of conditions for listing; quality and availability checks; and final approval by the Government.”
The most common presentation of pneumococcal disease in Australian children under the age of five is bacteraemia without focus, followed by pneumonia with bacteraemia. Meningitis is a less common, but more severe, form of pneumococcal disease.
Professor Paul Van Buynder, an infectious diseases epidemiologist from Griffith University, told The Medical Republic he hoped the government would decide to add Vaxneuvance to the National Immunisation Program for children in a timelier fashion than the government’s recent decision regarding Vaxneuvance’s use in adults, which took 14 months after the PBAC recommendation.
Vaxneuvance is currently listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods for use in adults aged 18 years and older, and was added to the Australian Immunisation Handbook for use in specific groups of adults earlier this year after a PBAC recommendation in 2021.