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RSV surge sparks winter warning

Immunisation Foundation of Australia 5 mins read

RSV surge sparks winter warning

 

Nationwide infant RSV immunisation would prevent 10,000 hospital admissions annually

 

A pre-winter surge in RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) infections among Australians most vulnerable to severe lung disease has experts fearing a tsunami of hospitalisations for RSV-related pneumonia and bronchiolitis.

 

On the first day of RSV Awareness Week (2-8 June), Australia has already recorded more than 47,000 RSV notifications in children aged under five years – representing 70 per cent of all respiratory infection notifications in this age group – and more than 13,000 notifications in people aged 60 years and above this year.1

 

“At the start of winter, we’ve already recorded nearly two-thirds the total number of RSV cases reported in 2023.1 This is well ahead of the normal curve,” said Dr Lisa McHugh, infectious diseases and perinatal epidemiologist at the University of Queensland.

 

“We anticipate RSV infections to climb as temperatures drop. We should also expect a surge in presentations to hospitals among those not protected against severe RSV,” she said.

 

The Immunisation Foundation of Australia says the positive news is that Western Australia and Queensland – the two states with all-infant RSV immunisation programs – are reporting lower rates of RSV-related hospitalisation in babies.

 

“Hospitalisation data from Western Australia shows a low rate of infant admission due to RSV for this time of the year,”2 said Catherine Hughes AM, Founder and Director of the Immunisation Foundation of Australia.

 

To date, more than 10,000 infants in Western Australia have been immunised against severe RSV, with similar uptake in Queensland3 – an outcome that is likely to prevent with one hospital admission for every 25 babies immunised.4

 

“The message is clear – infant RSV immunisation keeps babies out of hospital,” said Ms Hughes, whose three-week-old daughter was hospitalised with severe RSV in 2016, 18 months after the death of her son Riley from whooping cough

 

The Immunisation Foundation of Australia has calculated that nationwide access to and uptake of infant RSV immunisation could prevent around 10,000 infants aged under 12 months from being admitted to hospital each year.

 

Data collected during the European and the US winters showed an 80-90 per cent fall in childhood hospitalisations due to severe RSV following the rollout of infant RSV immunisations.4,5

 

“Without immunisation, we know that around 12,000 Australian babies are hospitalised with pneumonia and bronchiolitis caused by RSV each year, with one-in four requiring intensive care,”6 she said.

 

Dr McHugh and Ms Hughes are calling on all Australians to join them in declaring “I Support RSV Protection” as part of RSV Awareness Week.

 

Ms Hughes warned that without national RSV immunisation programs for infants and the elderly, Australia would fail to realise the potential of a new era of RSV protection.

 

“It’s wonderful that for the first time we can protect babies and the elderly from RSV, but it’s not sustainable to have infant immunisation programs in some states and not others, nor to ask older Australians to pay hundreds of dollars each year for RSV protection,” she said.

 

Ms Hughes will join infectious disease experts in Federal Parliament House on Tuesday, 4 June to brief parliamentarians on the latest research into RSV and the opportunity for national RSV immunisation programs.

 

The Immunisation Foundation of Australia has made submissions to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee which will advise the Federal Health Minister on the funding of:

  • An antibody therapy for the prevention of RSV-related lower respiratory tract disease in 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; 
  • A vaccine for pregnant women between 24-36 weeks of gestation for the prevention of lower respiratory tract disease caused by RSV in infants from birth through 6 months age; and
  • A vaccine for Australians aged 60 years and over to protect against RSV-related lower respiratory tract disease. 

 

For more information on RSV and the Immunisation Foundation of Australia, visit www.ifa.org.au/uniteagainstrsv

 

Interview Opportunities: To arrange an interview with a medical expert or family impacted by RSV please get in touch.

 

References

  1. Department of Health and Age Care. National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System. 28 May 2024. Available at https://nindss.health.gov.au/pbi-dashboard/
  2. PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA. Paediatric Respiratory Pathogen Report, Week 20, 13th May – 19th May 2024. Available at www.health.wa.gov.au/Articles/F_I/Infectious-disease-data/Paediatric-Respiratory-Pathogen-reports
  3. Data sourced from Immunisation Foundation of Australia, WA Health and QLD Health. 28 May 2024.
  4. Ares-Gómez S, et al. Effectiveness and impact of universal prophylaxis with nirsevimab in infants against hospitalisation for respiratory syncytial virus in Galicia, Spain: initial results of a population-based longitudinal study. Lancet. 2024. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S1473-3099(24)00215-9.
  5. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Early Estimate of Nirsevimab Effectiveness for Prevention of Respiratory Syncytial Virus–Associated Hospitalization Among Infants Entering Their First Respiratory Syncytial Virus Season — New Vaccine Surveillance Network, October 2023–February 2024. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). 2024; 73(9);209–214.
  6. Evohealth. Time to Act – Protecting our children from RSV. 2023. Available at: https://www.evohealth.com.au/insights/time-to-act-protecting-our-children-from-rsv/

Key Facts:

- Australia has already recorded more than 47,000 RSV notifications in children aged under five years – representing 70 per cent of all respiratory infection notifications in this age group.

- There has been more than 13,000 notifications in people aged 60 years and above this year. 

- Already Australia has recorded nearly two-thirds the total number of RSV cases reported in 2023. 

 


About us:

 

About the Immunisation Foundation of Australia

The Immunisation Foundation of Australia was established by the family of Riley Hughes, who have become vocal advocates of immunisation after the death of their son from whooping cough in 2015. Believing in the importance of parents and community-members standing up to support immunisation, the foundation’s mission is to inspire further community-based immunisation advocacy, helping to protect babies and families from vaccine-preventable diseases.

 

In 2023, the Immunisation Foundation of Australia ran Australia’s first ever RSV Awareness Week, which encouraged families impacted by RSV to share their stories. The campaign was supported by Karl and Jasmine Stefanovic.

The Immunisation Foundation of Australia envisions a world where families are no longer affected by the unnecessary suffering and death caused by vaccine-preventable diseases. To help make this vision a reality, we are committed to creating a network of community-based immunisation champions, who share our common values of respect, integrity and evidence-based advocacy. 

 

Email info@ifa.com.au to be added to the Immunisation Foundation of Australia’s news alerts for updates on RSV and RSV immunisation in Australia.


Catherine Hughes, Founder and Director of the Immunisation Foundation of Australia

 

Catherine is the founder of the Immunisation Foundation of Australia and Light For Riley, established after the death of her son Riley from whooping cough in 2015

 

Only days after Riley's death, Catherine and husband Greg successfully advocated for the introduction of free whooping cough vaccines for pregnant women, resulting in a sharp increase in awareness of the impact of whooping cough on babies and up to 90 per cent of Australian pregnant women choosing to protect their babies during pregnancy.

 

In 2016, Catherine’s infant daughter Lucy was hospitalised with severe RSV. She says: “I won’t lie. We were consumed by thoughts of Riley and a foreboding sense of ‘not again’.” Catherine’s story can be accessed here. In 2022, Catherine was appointed a Member of the Order of Australia for her services to immunisation.

 


Contact details:

- Candice Hitchcock, 0466 586 758

- John Morton, 0416 184 044

- Catherine Hughes, 0421 483 391

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