Infant RSV immunisation could prevent 10K hospitalisations: IFA

Monday, 03 June, 2024

Infant RSV immunisation could prevent 10K hospitalisations: IFA

Nationwide infant RSV immunisation could prevent 10,000 hospital admissions annually, according to the Immunisation Foundation of Australia (IFA).

Australia has already recorded more than 47,000 RSV notifications in children aged under five years — representing 70% of all respiratory infection notifications in this age group — and more than 13,000 notifications in people aged 60 years and above this year.

“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.

Lower infant admissions in WA, Qld

The IFA said 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 one hospital admission for every 25 babies immunised.4

“The message is clear — infant RSV immunisation keeps babies out of hospital,” said 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% 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.

McHugh and Hughes are calling on all Australians to join them in declaring “I Support RSV Protection” as part of RSV Awareness Week, held from 2–8 June.

A new era of RSV protection

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.

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

1. Department of Health and Age Care. National Notifiable Disease Surveillance System. 28 May 2024. Available at
2. PathWest Laboratory Medicine WA. Paediatric Respiratory Pathogen Report, Week 20, 13th May – 19th May 2024. Available at
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:
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:

Image caption: Hansen

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