October - December 2017- Newsletter

Dec 2017 - Newsletters

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AusVaxSafety exceeds 200 SmartVax sites nationwide

Dec 2017 - News

AusVaxSafety active vaccine safety surveillance data are provided by SmartVax, Vaxtracker and STARSS. No safety signals have been identified through active surveillance to date. AusVaxSafety active surveillance data continue to be updated regularly on the website.

Influenza: From 1 April 2017 to 3 September 2017, 102,663 individuals aged 6 months and older were enrolled for influenza vaccine surveillance. With an over 70% response rate, 73,560 participants consistently replied that any events after vaccination were generally mild and within expected ranges.

Zoster: As of 3 December 2017, a total of 10,739 persons aged 70–79 years have participated in zoster surveillance since 1 November 2016, yielding a response rate of 68%.

Pertussis: As of 10 December 2017, 29,592 children aged 12 months–<7 years have participated in pertussis surveillance since 14 March 2016, yielding a response rate of 72.4%.

As of 4 December 2017, there are 201 SmartVax sites nationwide. A live map can now be accessed on the SmartVax website.

PHN Immunisation Support Program

Dec 2017 - News

NCIRS has partnered with NPS MedicineWise to develop a national Primary Health Network (PHN) immunisation support program on behalf of the Commonwealth Department of Health.  The program will help PHNs to co-ordinate services and better assist immunisation providers to implement the National Immunisation Program (NIP).

The first phase of the program has now been completed and included the completion of a formative research report to understand the current landscape and explore the challenges and opportunities associated with establishing a support program. This involved literature reviews, environmental scanning, as well as teleconferences and workshops. It involved 84 stakeholder members, including jurisdictional immunisation co-ordinators (JICs) and representatives from PHNs and Public Health Units (PHUs).

Three stakeholder workshops, held in Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney followed by a co-design workshop in Sydney identified the specific elements of the program which will include:

  1. Development of a digital platform that provides access for PHNs across Australia to high quality resources, education, news and updates, network directories, and that enables PHNs to connect and share ideas.
  2. Facilitation of networking opportunities, such as teleconferences and face-to-face events.
  3. Development of resources and education where significant gaps are identified.
  4. Central co-ordination of all program activities.

 “The entire day was fantastic.  I am confident the program will deliver great outcomes”

“Very welcoming and great presentations.  Good networking with other PHN workers”

“Thank you – can’t wait for the next step”

“Great workshop, well planned and implemented”

“What worked well was the networking opportunities between PHNs and PHUs”

There was positive feedback from the workshops which highlighted the benefit of bringing together stakeholders from different regions to share ideas and assist in networking.  Attendees reported: 

The design of the digital platform is underway with a launch of Phase 1 anticipated at the end of March 2018.   Other elements of the program will be developed over the coming months which will include opportunities for networking and education. 

We are excited to be part of this initiative and look forward to supporting PHNs and other stakeholders in the future.




AEFI-CAN launches new national clinical database

Dec 2017 - News

The Adverse Event Following Immunisation-Clinical Assessment Network (AEFI-CAN) is excited to announce the launch of its national clinical database:

AEFI-CAN is a formal collaboration between state- and territory-based specialist immunisation clinics, and includes representatives from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), with funding provided by the Department Health via AusVaxSafety, coordinated by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS).

This database is part of national vaccine safety collaboration, led by SAEFVIC (at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute), with development and IT support from ChordWizard Systems (Stephen Clarke).

The database has both an AEFI reporting and a clinical follow-up arm, and is designed to help capture uniform data throughout Australia.

As a national network, AEFI-CAN works collaboratively to clinically assess and manage individual patients following serious or unexpected AEFI. AEFI-CAN provides the important link between surveillance and clinical assessment and management. As such, AEFI-CAN can assist in determining patient outcomes and support investigation of possible safety signals in a real-time integrated way.

The database is currently being used in Victoria, with work underway to provide opportunities for all state and territory specialist vaccine safety clinics to adopt the database.

Publication - Active SMS-based influenza vaccine safety surveillance in Australian Children

Nov 2017 - News

Australia’s novel, active surveillance system, AusVaxSafety, monitors the post-market safety of vaccines in near real time. This paper analysed cumulative surveillance data for children aged 6 months to 4 years who received seasonal influenza vaccine in 2015 and/or 2016 to determine: adverse event following immunisation (AEFI) rates by vaccine brand, age and concomitant vaccine administration.

7402 children were included in the analysis and no safety signals or excess of adverse events were detected.

Access the publication abstract

NCIRS publications in the Medical Journal of Australia

Nov 2017 - News

MJA coverThe November 6 issue of the Medical Journal of Australia featured four publications by the NCIRS team and collaborators, covering a broad range of topics such as meningococcal B disease, zoster, pneumonia and vaccine refusal.

These publications included:

MEDIA RELEASE - New AusVaxSafety data reinforces vaccination safety

Oct 2017 - News

Innovative new AusVaxSafety data confirms the 2017 influenza vaccines to  be safe. No vaccine safety concerns were identified in approximately 74,000 adults and children vaccinated since April this year.

In the past five months over 102,000 people who have received the influenza vaccine across Australia have been sent a follow-up survey 3 days after vaccination to monitor vaccine reaction rates in real-time. With over 70% response rates, consumers have consistently replied that any effects after vaccination were generally mild and within expected ranges. This data, largely provided by SmartVax SMS surveys, reinforces the safety of the currently approved influenza vaccines. Only 6.6% had any potential reaction and an even smaller 0.4% sought attention from a healthcare provider in the days after vaccination.

Deputy Director of the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) and paediatric infectious disease consultant Associate Professor, Kristine Macartney says, “We know the importance of vaccination and since implementing this program as an Australian first, we’ve received ongoing positive results that confirm and assure the safety of vaccines.”

“The AusVaxSafety results showcase how Australia takes a lead in feeding back information to the rest of the world in regard to influenza vaccination safety. Countries now entering winter in the Northern Hemisphere will be particularly interested in these results as they are starting to use 2017/18 vaccines containing the same strains shown to be safe in Australia,” she said.

AusVaxSafety is a national active vaccine safety surveillance system that monitors vaccine safety across more than 200 ‘sentinel’ sites. These include general practices (GPs), Aboriginal medical services, immunisation clinics and hospital clinics. Led by the NCIRS, this world-leading system actively monitors the safety of a number of vaccines and aims to increase public confidence in immunisation.

July - September 2017 - Newsletter

Sep 2017 - Newsletters

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MEDIA RELEASE - NPS MedicineWise and NCIRS announce national partnership

Sep 2017 - News

NPS MW ID RGBNPS MedicineWise has partnered with the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) to deliver a landmark, nationally coordinated immunisation support program for Primary Health Networks (PHNs) across Australia.

The program, entitled the Primary Health Networks Immunisation Support Program, will be co-designed with PHNs to better support and coordinate immunisation providers and services in their regions. The aim is to ensure PHN efforts across the country deliver on National Immunisation Program goals and are as consistent as possible, while addressing specific challenges in their local areas.

Immunisation providers, including GPs, nurses, community health clinics, Aboriginal Medical Services, local councils and pharmacies will benefit from the new PHN immunisation programs which will be consistent with the Australian Immunisation Handbook guidance, but adapted to be more targeted to specific community and patient requirements.

NPS MedicineWise CEO, Lynn Weekes, says: “We are pleased to partner with NCIRS on such a nationally significant and essential undertaking to enhance the effectiveness of immunisation services throughout the country.

“Supporting the invaluable work of PHNs by ensuring they are well-equipped with consistent and tailored immunisation information for the health professionals working in their local communities, is our priority in the development of this new program.”

The program is in early stages of development during which NCIRS and NPS MedicineWise will undertake a systematic consultation process with PHNs and key stakeholders around the country to identify and respond to their particular challenges and requirements in the immunisation space.

NCIRS Deputy Director, Associate Professor Kristine Macartney, says, “The input and local insights we receive from PHNs will be crucial to informing the program’s development.

“This and the combined expertise of NCIRS and NPS MedicineWise put us in a strong position to work to ensure that future PHN immunisation programs are consistent and that they effectively deliver messages that are relevant to local communities and immunisation providers across Australia. This should enable us to protect more people from disease through effective delivery of immunisation. ”

Media enquiries: Eve Hanks (02) 8217 9667, 0419 618 365 or or Jonathon Abbott (02) 8217 9650 or

About NPS MedicineWise: Independent, evidence-based and not-for-profit, NPS MedicineWise enables better decisions about medicines and medical tests. We receive funding from the Australian Government Department of Health.

About NCIRS: The National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance of Vaccine Preventable Diseases (NCIRS) is the leading organisation in Australia working in research to support evidence-based policy development for evaluation of the National Immunisation Program, and surveillance of vaccine preventable diseases, vaccine coverage and vaccine safety. This work is funded through agreements with the Australian Government Department of Health. For more information on NCIRS visit

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Flu is a tragic illness. How can we get more people to vaccinate?

Sep 2017 - News

File 20170921 16560 1nqeo0y Most people don’t take flu seriously enough. from

Julie Leask, University of Sydney and Samantha Carlson, University of Sydney and Research Officer NCIRS

Flu (influenza) has traditionally been the underdog of vaccine-preventable diseases. People tend not to worry about the flu too much, and there are various myths about its prevention and the vaccine. It’s true most people experience flu as a mild disease, but many don’t recognise it can be more severe.

Each year flu is estimated to kill at least 3,000 Australians aged over 50 years alone. It took more children’s lives than any other vaccine preventable disease in Australia between 2005-2014, and is the most common vaccine preventable disease that sends Australian children to hospital.

The tragic death of eight-year-old Rosie Andersen from flu this week has followed the recent outbreaks in aged care facilities and subsequent deaths of residents in South Australia, Tasmania and Victoria. A 30-year-old father died earlier this month due to complications from the flu, and now Sarah Hawthorn, who was infected late in her pregnancy, remains in a coma, unaware her baby was safely delivered six weeks ago.

This year’s flu season has been a bad one. And it’s not over yet.

Australian studies have shown the flu vaccine can usually reduce the risk of flu in those who are vaccinated by 40-50%, and by 50-60% for children. Early indications are showing the effectiveness of this year’s flu vaccine may be lower.

Experts are calling for a better vaccine, which is needed. But even a more effective vaccine won’t address all the barriers to uptake.

Read more: Flu vaccine won’t definitely stop you from getting the flu, but it’s more important than you think

Who’s most at-risk?

Annual flu vaccination is recommended for any person six months of age or older who wishes to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill with flu. It’s free for certain groups at higher risk of the severe effects of the disease including:

• people over 65 (80% of whom are vaccinated)

• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from six months to five years (12% of whom are vaccinated)

• Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people over 15 (34% of whom are vaccinated)

• pregnant women (45% of whom are vaccinated)

• people aged six months and over with medical conditions such as severe asthma, lung or heart disease, low immunity or diabetes (58% of these adults are vaccinated, and 27% of these children).

Why don’t they vaccinate?

Researchers have looked at why many people in these groups don’t have their yearly flu vaccine. A common theme emerges - health professionals are not recommending it enough, people aren’t aware they need it, they’re not sufficiently motivated, or they don’t have easy access.

These themes come out in studies with parents of young children, pregnant women, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children, adults with other disease, and people over 65.

The flu vaccine isn’t free for all kids. from

Our research is now looking at the children who end up in hospital with severe flu. We’re trying to better understand the barriers to flu vaccination, along with vaccine efficacy issues.

We’ve heard that not only are health care workers not recommending it enough, some doctors are even recommending against it, as they don’t believe the child is at risk. This is even though over half of children hospitalised from the flu are those without medical risk factors. Other times it’s simple awareness - parents didn’t know their child can receive a flu vaccine if they’re over the age of six months.

Busy lives can mean making time to go to the clinic for a vaccine falls down the list of priorities. A four-year-old in our study was hospitalised only three days before a visit to the clinic had been booked.

Some of the children in our study were not theoretically at high risk of flu and so not in the group where the vaccine is free. This was a major barrier, as it has been in other studies in children and adults. Parents report to us that their child is up-to-date with their scheduled vaccines, but annual flu vaccination is not being ticked off as it’s not on the schedule.

The challenge with flu vaccine is it’s given yearly. In the UK it’s recommended and funded for all children of primary school age using a school-based delivery program and currently between 53-58% of children have it. When this many children are vaccinated there can be indirect protection of others who are not vaccinated because the virus is not able to spread from person to person as easily.

Read more: I’ve always wondered: why is the flu virus so much worse than the common cold virus?

Misconceptions about the flu vaccine

Misconceptions about flu vaccine are also a barrier: that it causes flu, that it’s not effective, that it’s not needed. People might say they never get the flu, not realising symptoms can be mild or not noticed and they can pass it on to the vulnerable. Others reported their belief was that the flu was not a serious disease. Some believed contracting flu “naturally” was likely to provide greater immunity.

Some parents also have concerns about the safety of the flu vaccine. Australians were spooked by a 2010 incident when there was a temporary suspension of flu vaccine for children under five after reports of an increase in the rate of convulsions in children.

The one vaccine found to be the cause (BioCSL/Sequiris Fluvax™) is no longer approved for use in children younger than five, but there are other seasonal flu vaccines children can have. But public and professional confidence is yet to fully recover, despite having reassuring safety data.

People may say they never get the flu so they don’t need the vaccine, but you can pass on the virus without knowing you have it. from

Western Australia has had a free child vaccine program for years which was achieving relatively good coverage, but this dramatically declined after 2010, and coverage languishes at around 15% today. In other words, mud sticks.

How to improve uptake

To improve uptake we first need timely and accurate coverage figures. We now have the capacity to get coverage estimates from the expanded Australian Immunisation Register but these are not yet available.

The vaccine needs to be recommended more often, available more readily, free and recommended as part of the schedule, and myths addressed more effectively.

We need to motivate and support health care workers to implement the recommendations, such as with automated reminders, incentives and performance indicators. Systems need to ensure people can get the vaccine easily - from the GP or other health clinic, the specialist clinic, the antenatal care clinic, or from an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander health worker.

The ConversationPromoting flu vaccine to everyone is important, as is providing ease of access, awareness and opportunity. Although the flu vaccine isn’t perfect, it’s far better than no protection at all.

Julie Leask, Associate Professor, University of Sydney and Samantha Carlson, Research Officer for the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, University of Sydney

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

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