Free H1N1 vax approved for early rollout
GPs will be able to offer the swine flu vaccine free to all Australians and not just high-risk groups, health officials have decided.
Today, the Therapeutic Goods Administration approved CSL's Panvax H1N1 vaccine in adults but is awaiting data before approving the vaccine in children younger than 10 years.
Data indicate a single dose of the vaccine provides an acceptable immune response 8-10 days after vaccination in healthy adults.
RACGP president Dr Chris Mitchell told MO that guidelines for multi-dose vials had been signed off with rollout of the vaccination program expected to start from 30 September.
While priority would still be given to vaccinating vulnerable groups in the community, based on the fact that only one dose is required, supplies of the vaccine would be adequate for the whole population, a federal health department spokesman confirmed.
A position statement from the Chief Medical Officer and state and territory health officers endorsed on 1 September stated that priority would be given to vaccinating vulnerable groups, including pregnant women, adults and children older than 10 years with chronic medical conditions, Indigenous people and healthcare workers.
The statement provides definitions of the target groups, confirming that all pregnant women should be offered the vaccine and stating that doctors should make a clinical judgement on the vulnerability of people with underlying chronic medical conditions.
The target groups include:
- patients with asthma and COPD
- the moderate to severely obese (BMI >35)
- patients who identify as Indigenous
- those heading to remote communities including researchers going to Antarctica
- children older than 10 years in exclusively special needs schools
- parents and primary carers of children aged 0-6 months.
"While emphasis will be on targeting these priority groups, the opportunistic vaccination of friends, family and carers of vulnerable people or anyone who wishes to protect themselves from pandemic influenza is also encouraged," the statement said.
RACGP pandemic spokesman Dr Ron McCoy said GPs would be urged to hold clinics for priority groups to maximise efficient use of the multi-dose vials.
"We also hope that GPs will vaccinate their staff early, as healthcare workers are one of the priority groups," he said.
Meanwhile World Health Organization officials will meet in Melbourne on 21 September to decide on the composition of next year's seasonal vaccine for the Southern Hemisphere.
Influenza Specialist Group chair Dr Alan Hampson (Hon MD) said it was likely that the vaccine would comprise the pandemic H1 strain and the circulating H3 and B strains, with the seasonal H1 strain being dropped.