NSW, Qld announce RSV immunisation programs for infants

Wednesday, 27 March, 2024

NSW, Qld announce RSV immunisation programs for infants

Just weeks after Western Australia announced a state-funded immunisation program to protect babies from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), NSW and Queensland are following suit with the launch of their own RSV immunisation programs, just in time to beat the 2024 winter season.

Almost all children will experience at least one RSV infection by the time they turn two, with the highly contagious respiratory virus the most common cause of hospitalisations among infants and young children. And while RSV can infect people of all ages, newborn babies and young children have tiny airways, so what may seem like a cold can rapidly turn severe, causing a range of respiratory illnesses including bronchiolitis and pneumonia.

Like WA, the NSW and Queensland immunisation programs will use the monoclonal antibody product nirsevimab (brand name Beyfortus), which was approved by the TGA in November 2023 for use in infants and young children. Due to limited global supply of nirsevimab, the programs have been designed to ensure infants and young children at the highest risk of severe disease from RSV are protected at the right time.

The NSW program launched with immediate effect on Monday and will be initially offered to hospitalised premature infants (less than 37 weeks gestation at birth) born after 31 October 2023, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants born after 31 October 2023 and other infants living with specific chronic and complex health conditions. The Queensland program will be formally launched in April, with the following infants and young children set to be eligible:

  • All newborn infants, either prior to discharge from hospital or up until they are less than eight months of age.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants less than eight months of age.
  • Infants with certain complex medical conditions less than eight months of age.
  • Infants with certain complex medical conditions from 8–19 months of age (inclusive), until 31 October 2024.

“We know RSV is widespread across Queensland and occurs year-round, with peaks typically occurring during the autumn and winter months,” said Acting Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Catherine McDougall.

“This immunisation program is an important step towards reducing the risk associated with RSV and keeping more children safe.

“Similar immunisation programs to protect against RSV have been rolled out in Europe and the United States of America, and these have demonstrated a significant reduction in RSV-related hospitalisations among infants and high-risk young children.

“I encourage all parents of eligible children to take the opportunity to protect their child against RSV as the immunisation becomes available.”

Image credit: iStock.com/Buntiam

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