WA first to fund new RSV vaccine for babies

3 minute read

Beyfortus, approved by the TGA in November, will keep hundreds of babies out of hospital, says the Immunisation Foundation of Australia.

Western Australia is the first state to agree to fund infant immunisation for respiratory syncytial virus after signing a funding agreement with Sanofi for the supply of nirsevimab (Beyfortus).

“The move by the WA Government to secure the RSV infant immunisation ahead of winter will safeguard some of the most vulnerable members of our community,” said founder and director of the IFA Catherine Hughes.

RSV is currently the top cause of hospitalisations for children under five across the country.

A quarter of these hospitalised children end up in intensive care, demonstrating the “significant burden on families and our healthcare system”, said the IFA.

Last November, the TGA approved Beyfortus 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.

During clinical trials, the vaccination was shown to reduce RSV-associated lower respiratory tract infection hospitalisations by up to 83%.

Although it was widely used across Europe and the US over their winter this year, according to the IFA, supply has been unavailable in Australia.

WA has now signed a supply agreement with Sanofi and will provide state-funded immunisation.

“The rollout of Beyfortus in WA this year will provide learnings for other states and the Commonwealth on how to design and deliver a large-scale immunisation program to protect all infants against RSV,” said Ms Hughes.

“This must be a national health priority.”

According to Ms Hughes, WA has long led the pack in the fight against vaccine-preventative disease.

It was the first state to adopt maternal whooping cough immunisation and to provide flu vax to children.

“With an average of 12,000 RSV-related hospitalisations among Australian infants each year,1 broad access to Beyfortus has the potential to ease the strain on families and our hospital system during the winter months,” Ms Hughes said.

“The IFA will continue to urge all Australians to unite against RSV to reduce the threat posed by this highly contagious and unpredictable virus.”

RACGP Western Australia Chair Dr Ramya Raman welcomed the government’s “decisive” action.

“This is the first such supply agreement anywhere in the southern hemisphere and a real boost in our efforts to combat RSV in the community.”

According to Dr Raman, immunisations may be available from April, but this has not yet been officially confirmed.

“This announcement has only just been made and rolling out the program may take time.”

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