News & Events
Congratulations to NCIRS Deputy Director A/Prof Kristine Macartney on her Research Action award from the Sax Institute
Dec 2016 - News
Congratulations to NCIRS Deputy Director, Associate Professor Kristine Macartney, who has been awarded one of three 2016 Sax Institute Research Action Awards. The Sax Institute established the Research Action Awards in 2015 to recognise researchers whose work has made a real-world difference to people’s health and wellbeing. A panel of national and international experts chose the three award winners.
Associate Professor Macartney, a paediatrician and infectious disease specialist, has devoted her career to researching the benefits of childhood vaccines and is responsible for a major change in the way vaccine safety is monitored in Australia. From 2017, the AusVaxSafety National Surveillance System – a vaccine monitoring system led by Associate Professor Macartney at NCIRS – will actively monitor the safety of all government-funded vaccines for both children and adults, using real-time reports of patients’ vaccine experiences obtained via SMS or email.
"Vaccines against zoster [shingles], whooping cough [pertussis] and influenza have saved countless people from experiencing severe illness and death – getting the information to persons of all ages about the benefits and risks of vaccines is absolutely crucial. The AusVaxSafety National Surveillance System will greatly assist this because for the first time, we will be continuously monitoring any reactions – or non-reactions – to all vaccines as they are given," said Associate Professor Macartney.
“The commitment of researchers who are passionate about making a tangible difference is critical to improving our health system and individual health outcomes,” said Sax Institute CEO Professor Sally Redman.
“I congratulate our awardees – Associate Professor Kristine Macartney, Dr Kees van Gool and Associate Professor Angela Dawson. Their work is a shining example of how research can help address the issues we face as a society.
“The safety of the vaccines we give to our children, sexual and reproductive healthcare outcomes for women and girls, and improving the equity and efficiency of Medicare are fundamentally important topics − these are three worthy winners.”
Congratulations to Dr Harunor Rashid on his SUPRA Supervisor of the Year Award
Nov 2016 - News
The SUPRA (Sydney University Postgraduate Representative Association) Awards recognise and reward excellence in supervision as nominated and judged by research postgraduates at the University. Harunor supervises six PhD students in the Discipline of Child and Adolescent Health – three as research supervisor and three in an auxiliary supervisor role. He has positive and constructive relationships with his students, provides great assistance with research and support for his students’ research careers, and has an expert knowledge of his field of research.
Professor Robert Booy presented the award at a special ceremony at NCIRS. Professor Booy said, “Harunor is one of life's treasures."
Report on vaccine preventable child deaths
Nov 2016 - News
Parents are reminded to talk with their doctor to ensure their children are fully vaccinated following a review of vaccine preventable deaths over the past decade in NSW.
A report from NCIRS on ‘Child deaths from vaccine preventable infectious diseases, NSW 2005–2014’, commissioned by the NSW Child Death Review Team (CDRT), was tabled in the NSW Parliament on 22 November.
While child deaths due to vaccine preventable diseases are now rare in Australia, the report found 23 deaths between 2005 and 2014 that were considered preventable or potentially preventable by vaccinations that were available at the time of the child’s death. Another 30 deaths were not considered preventable at the time although 15 would now be covered by vaccines.
The majority of deaths were due to influenza, meningococcal disease and pneumococcal disease with most deaths in babies under 6 months of age. Several deaths were due to whooping cough and chickenpox.
A third of the children also had health problems that put them at high risk of severe disease.
NCIRS Director Peter McIntyre said the report highlighted the need for parents and healthcare professionals to follow the recommendations in The Australian Immunisation Handbook.
“Immunisation has been successful in dramatically reducing the number of childhood deaths from infectious diseases in Australia,” Professor McIntyre said.
“It is important for parents to speak with their doctor about influenza vaccine, as it is recommended in The Australian Immunisation Handbook for children, particularly under 5 years of age.
“Parents of children with medical conditions or compromised immune systems should talk to their doctor about what vaccinations might be needed for their child or family.
“Pregnant women are also encouraged to speak to their doctor or midwife about free vaccinations for whooping cough and influenza,” he said.
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Breaking news: AusVaxSafety expands
Nov 2016 - News
The Minister for Health and Aged Care, the Honourable Sussan Ley, announced a major expansion of the AusVaxSafety system in Canberra today, alongside the launch of the new National Shingles Vaccination Program. AusVaxSafety, a collaborative initiative led by NCIRS and funded by the Australian Government Department of Health, actively monitors the safety of vaccines using SMS-feedback from recently vaccinated children and adults. From November 2016, AusVaxSafety will support the National Shingles Vaccination Program as well as monitor influenza vaccine safety in all age groups. This system helps provide continuous safety monitoring to ensure public confidence in vaccination. From 2017, AusVaxSafety will routinely report on all vaccines given to people of any age.More information »
WHO recommends free hepatitis B vaccinations for Indigenous Australians
Oct 2016 - SBS News - News
SBS World News Radio: A new Australian report for the World Health Organisation calls for a national hepatitis B immunisation program for Indigenous Australian adults.
Specialists say the group is significantly over-represented in hepatitis B cases.
It is prevented with a simple three-dose course of injections.
But while Indigenous adults are one of the groups most at risk of being infected with hepatitis B, many are not protected.
A new Australian report for the World Health Organisation calls for free hepatitis B immunisations for all Indigenous adults.
Royal Melbourne Hospital infectious-diseases specialist Benjamin Cowie is one of the authors.
"An Aboriginal person has four times the risk of getting a new or incident acute hepatitis B, compared to a non-Indigenous person. So, using that as the foundation, we then went on and examined the potential impact of a vaccination program targeting susceptible Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults to protect them against acute or incident hepatitis B."
Hepatitis B is spread through bodily fluids and can lead to chronic liver disease or cancer if left untreated.
Dr Cowie says the researchers found one case of hepatitis B would be prevented for every 150 Indigenous Australians vaccinated.
"That's a very low number needed to vaccinate, compared with many of the other existing vaccination programs which are supported by the Australian government. So by vaccinating just a proportion of those who remain susceptible amongst the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adult population, hundreds of hepatitis B infections would be prevented in the next 10 years."
All Australian babies are offered free hepatitis B immunisations under the National Immunisation Program.
The vaccines for adults would be free, but not compulsory.
The report's lead author, Kristine Macartney, from the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, says the current system for adults is inequitable.
She says free vaccinations for them are only available in some states.
"When the vaccine's not free and it's not promoted, that it can't be just pulled out of the GP's or the clinic's fridge, we don't see high uptake of vaccine in that context. And this is about saying, if we went the extra mile* and we were able to provide the vaccine free at the time of seeing a patient, and at the time of ordering their test for hepatitis B, we could then really improve coverage. We're not suggesting that everybody could be vaccinated. But even if we're looking at half the people who remain susceptible being vaccinated, we'll see some good impacts."
A community worker with the support group Hepatitis Victoria, Sione Crawford, works closely with Aboriginal adults at risk of contracting hepatitis B.
He says the absence of a national program is a glaring oversight.
"We need to ensure that Aboriginal people know that their health is valued and that we are completely willing and able to invest in that for the future. We know that the disparity between Aboriginal health and non-Indigenous health in Australia is wide, and we need to close that gap. This is one really quite simple way to do that."
A spokesman for federal health minister Sussan Ley says the focus on immunising children is considered the primary approach to immunisation.
He says independent experts regularly look at new evidence, such as the World Health Organisation paper, to assess whether immunisation is indicated and cost-effective.
The global journal of that organisation will publish the Australian report next week.
Call for nationwide Indigenous Hepatitis B vaccinations
Oct 2016 - SBS news - News
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are at significant increased risk of Hepatitis B, according to a new World Health Organisation report.
Its authors say that with the higher rate of Hepatitis B for Indigenous Australians - 3.6 cases per 100,000 compared with 1.1 per 100,000 in other Australians, a national immunisation program would be beneficial.
Royal Melbourne Hospital Infectious diseases expert Associate Professor Benjamin Cowie, one of the World Health Organisation report's authors, said they found that one case of Hepatitis B would be prevented for every 150 Indigenous Australians vaccinated.
"That's a very low number needed to vaccinate, compared with many of the other existing vaccination programs which are supported by the Australian government," Professor Cowie told SBS.
The research found a national immunisation program could prevent 550 new cases of acute Hepatitis B, and 23 cases of chronic Hepatitis B over a decade.
"By vaccinating just a proportion of those who remain susceptible amongst the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population, hundreds of Hepatitis B infections would be prevented in the next 10 years," Professor Cowie said.
Hepatitis B is spread through bodily fluids, and can lead to chronic liver disease or cancer if left untreated.
All Australian babies are currently offered free Hepatitis B immunisations under the National Immunisation Program.
Free vaccinations are also offered for some at risk groups in some states.
This includes Indigenous Australians, as well as migrants from areas where Hepatitis B is widespread, including Africa, Asia, Russia and Eastern Europe.
In Victoria, immunisation is recommended, but not free, for people who are at increased risk.
Report Lead author, Kristine Macartney said the current system is inequitable and ineffective.
"When the vaccine's not free and it's not promoted, and it can't be just pulled out of the GP's or the clinic's fridge, we don't see high uptake of vaccine in that context," Professor Macartney said.
She said the vaccines should be free, but not compulsory.
Professor Macartney said it would also help to identify previously undiagnosed Hepatitis B cases.
Recipients would need to be tested before vaccination, and many don't know they have it.
"If we were able to provide the vaccine free at the time of seeing a patient, and at the time of ordering a test for Hepatitis B, we could then really improve coverage," she said.
Community worker with support group Hepatitis Victoria Sione Crawford has worked closely with Aboriginal adults at risk of contracting Hepatitis B around Australia.
He has been working on a prison program for Aboriginal people at risk of contracting Hepatitis B.
He said the absence of a national immunisation progam is a glaring oversight.
"We know that the disparity between Aboriginal health and non-Indigenous health in Australia is wide and we need to close that gap," Mr Crawford said.
"This is one really quite simple way to do that."
A spokesman for Federal Health Minister Sussan Ley told SBS, the focus on immunising children is considered to be the primary approach to immunisation.
The spokesman said independent experts regularly look at new evidence, such as the WHO paper, to assess whether immunisation is indicated and cost effective.
The Australian report will be published in the global journal of the World Health Organisation next week.
Zoster vaccine fact sheet and new FAQs now available
Oct 2016 - News
The NCIRS zoster vaccine fact sheet has just been updated. A new FAQ fact sheet is also now available which provides responses to common questions about zoster disease and zoster vaccine.More information »
2016 annual update of The Australian Immunisation Handbook now online
Sep 2016 - News
NCIRS has developed a slide set summarising the changes made in the 2016 annual update of The Australian Immunisation Handbook which is now available on the Immunise Australia website (available online only).
The 2016 update was approved by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) in August 2016. It supersedes the previous version updated online in 2015. The original 10th edition of The Australian Immunisation Handbook published by the Australian Government Department of Health in March 2013 is now out of date.More information »
NCIRS's Kevin Yin receives "distinction” poster award at Control of Influenza conference in Chicago
Aug 2016 - News
Dr J Kevin Yin, senior research officer at NCIRS, attended the Options IX for the Control of Influenza conference in Chicago, USA, from the 24th-28th of August. He presented two posters on influenza research from NCIRS. The study entitled ‘Systematic review and meta-analysis of indirect protection afforded by vaccinating children against seasonal influenza: implications for policy was awarded with “distinction” poster award. Led by Kevin, with co-authors Anita Heywood (UNSW), Melina Georgousakis, Catherine King, Clayton Chiu, David Isaacs (CHW) and Kristine Macartney, this examines the evidence for herd immunity from influenza vaccination of children. Congratulations Kevin and team on this prestigious award!
Reducing vaccine preventable diseases in children: PAEDS Partnership Project
Aug 2016 - News
We are pleased to announce the award of our NHMRC-funded Partnership Project (APP1113851): Reducing vaccine preventable diseases in children: using national active hospital-based surveillance to evaluate and improve immunisation program performance.
This project is aimed at improving immunisation programs to most effectively and equitably prevent illness and death due to the two most prevalent vaccine preventable diseases in Australian children, influenza and pertussis.
Morbidity from influenza and pertussis remains a significant challenge. An average of 2,700 children are hospitalised from these diseases each year. Deaths also continue to occur from influenza and pertussis, even in previously healthy children and babies.
We will be undertaking a novel and systematic examination of how factors related to both the effectiveness and the uptake of vaccination contribute to controlling influenza and pertussis in Australian children.
This project expands upon our national partnership of major paediatric hospitals in Australia: the Paediatric Active Enhanced Disease Surveillance (PAEDS, www.paeds.edu.au) network. We have established PAEDS sites in the major paediatric hospitals in five states (NSW, Western Australia, South Australia, Queensland and Victoria), and will be adding a sixth site in Darwin in the Northern Territory. With total funding comprising of fifty-per cent support from the NHMRC and fifty-per cent from our funding partners, who are all relevant State and Territory and the Australian Government Departments of Health, our collaboration is well placed to conduct this cutting edge program-relevant research.
Our nationally representative team is comprised of immunisation and public health experts, epidemiologists and social scientists. Over the coming three years we will undertake a range of studies, including:
a) identifying in whom breakthrough disease occurs despite immunisation and why, and we will estimate vaccine effectiveness of new programs;
b) identify reasons for under or no-vaccination at the individual, community, system and policy levels; and
c) determine factors or gaps in immunisation policy and practice that can be changed to improve prevention of disease from influenza and pertussis in children.
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