Free RSV immunisation program for Queensland infants and young children

Published Monday, 25 March, 2024 at 12:05 PM


The Honourable Steven Miles

Minister for Health, Mental Health and Ambulance Services and Minister for Women
The Honourable Shannon Fentiman

  • The Miles Government will invest $31 million towards a free Respiratory Syncytial Virus immunisation program.
  • The 12-month program will be offered to more than 70,000 newborn babies, eligible infants and young children next month.
  • RSV is the most common cause of hospitalisation among infants and young children.

Almost all Queensland children will experience at least one RSV infection by the time they turn two, with the virus the most common cause of hospitalisations among infants and young children.

The highly contagious virus attacks the lungs and can spread quickly, particularly between little ones.

While RSV can infect people of all ages, we know newborn babies and young children have tiny airways and what may seem like a cold, can rapidly turn severe, causing a range of respiratory illness including bronchiolitis or pneumonia.

That is why, the Miles Government will invest $31.06 million to rollout a free Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) immunisation program to more than 70,000 newborn babies, eligible infants and young children.

This year alone around 7,000 cases of RSV have been recorded in Queensland, which is double the number of cases in 2023 between the same period, 1 January to 24 March.

More than 2100 of the cases recorded so far this year are children under two years of age.

Last year, nearly 29,000 RSV cases were recorded. Of these, 9,703 cases were recorded among children under two years and hospital admissions accounted for more than 5,000 occupied paediatric bed days, of which 3,525 were for infants under one year of age.

This statewide paediatric RSV immunisation program will be rolled out ahead of the 2024 winter season.

From next month, the following infants and young children will be eligible for RSV immunisation:

  • All newborn infants
    • This will be offered as a dose at birth or prior to discharge from hospital.
    • Infants born on or after the program commencement date who are not immunised in hospital, can access this dose up until they are less than 8 months of age.
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander infants less than 8 months of age.
  • Infants with certain complex medical conditions less than 8 months of age.
  • Infants with certain complex medical conditions from 8 months up to 19 months of age (inclusive), until 31 October 2024.

The program will use the monoclonal antibody product nirsevimab (brand name Beyfortus®), which was approved by the Therapeutic Good Administration (TGA) in November 2023 for use in infants and young children.

Due to limited global supply of nirsevimab, Queensland’s immunisation program will ensure infants and young children at highest risk of severe disease from RSV are protected at the right time.

More information around eligibility and how to access the RSV immunisation will be released prior to the start of the program.

More information about RSV is available here.

Quotes attributable to Premier Steven Miles:  

“I can remember how scary it is when your baby is sick.

“Providing the smallest Queenslanders with a free RSV immunisation will help give them the best start in life.

“We are one of the first states in the country to announce a free RSV immunisation program for newborn babies and eligible young children.

“My Government will continue to invest in more and better healthcare.”

Quotes attributable to Minister for Health, Mental Health and Ambulance Services and Minister for Women Shannon Fentiman:

“We know caring for a little one can already be a stressful time for parents and this is an important step to help reduce the risk of contracting RSV and keeping our most vulnerable out of hospital. 

“We have seen a significant increase in hospitalisations of infants and young children with the RSV virus that’s why we are investing to protect some of Queensland’s most vulnerable with this state-funded RSV prevention program.

“The health of Queenslanders is a top priority for the Miles Government and we are committed to protecting Queenslanders against immunisation preventable diseases.

“This investment follows on from the recent $90 million announcement to rollout the Meningococcal B vaccine for free to eligible cohorts.

“It will also provide immediate cost of living relief by eliminating the financial barriers to parents wanting to access this RSV prevention product.

“In the 2022-23 financial year, the costs associated with RSV-related hospitalisations for all ages in Queensland was around $40 million, this program will not only improve the health of young Queenslanders but also reduce the demand and cost impacts on public and private healthcare services.

“This RSV immunisation program, based on programs already underway in other parts of the world, is expected to alleviate pressure on paediatric health care services across Queensland, including hospitals and primary care."

Quotes attributable to Acting Queensland Chief Health Officer Dr Catherine McDougall:

“Queensland Health will be working closely with key stakeholders over the coming weeks ahead of the launch of this important immunisation program, which closely follows the launch of the free Meningococcal B vaccination program.

“We know RSV is widespread across Queensland and occurs year-round, with peaks typically occurring during the autumn and winter months.

“In recent weeks, we have seen a steady rise in RSV cases across all age groups, with 659 cases recorded a month ago, and 872 cases in the week beginning 11 March 2024.  

“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.

“RSV immunisation has proven to be a safe and effective way to reduce severe RSV disease in infants and young children.

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

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