Two more states to provide RSV vaccine for babies

3 minute read

NSW and Queensland have joined the ranks, alongside WA, to add RSV vaccine Beyfortus to their statewide immunisation programs.

NSW and Queensland have heeded calls from the AMA and the RACGP for statewide RSV immunisation programs, following in WA’s footsteps to protect infants from the respiratory virus. 

Earlier this month, Western Australia announced that it had signed a supply agreement with Sanofi, the manufacturer of the new RSV vaccine for infants, Beyfortus (nirsevimab), to deliver a state-funded immunisation program. 

Following the announcement, the RACGP and AMA Queensland put the pressure on the state health ministers to follow suit. 

Both Queensland and NSW have since announced that they will supply the vaccine to babies in 2024, to the delight of the RACGP. 

“This decision will save lives in my home state,” said RACGP NSW and ACT chair Dr Rebekah Hoffman. 

“Some families may not realise that RSV is the number one cause of hospitalisation for children aged five and under.” 

RACGP Queensland chair Dr Cathryn Hester said that, unlike in other states, Queensland’s unpredictable seasons meant year-round cases of RSV. 

“This only adds to the challenge, and makes today’s announcement even more welcome,” she said. 

Dr Hester said, from her understanding, that the rollout would start no later than 1 May this year. 

Newborns will be offered a jab when leaving the hospital, she said, and babies born on or after the rollout date would be able to get a dose up to 8 months in hospitals. 

“In addition, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants less than 8 months old, and babies with certain complex medical conditions aged 8 months to 19 months, will be eligible.” 

According to Dr Hester, GPs will be integral. 

“We also understand that in addition to the immunisations being distributed at birthing hospitals, other eligible infants and young children will be able to access the jab at some general practices.” 

Immunisation Foundation of Australia welcomed the announcements in both states. 

“RSV puts more Australian children in hospital than any other illness,” said director of the IFA, Catherine Hughes. 

“Each winter, RSV leaves thousands of babies struggling to breathe, many requiring intensive care for pneumonia or bronchiolitis,” said Ms Hughes, whose three-week-old daughter was hospitalised with RSV in 2016. 

“All babies deserve protection against this serious and unpredictable virus, and that demands a national RSV immunisation program,” she said. 

Ms Hughes said that the federally funded National Immunisation Program may be the best platform to provide free access to RSV immunisations for all Australian babies. 

“The earliest that Beyfortus could be added to the National Immunisation Program is 2025, but this is only possible with the support of the Federal Government. 

“Now that we have the means to protect all infants against severe RSV, we need to grab the opportunity with both hands.” 

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