News & Events

Controlling meningococcal disease in 2017 - evidence from Australia, NZ and the UK - Friday 7 April 2017

Apr 2017 - Events

This one-day symposium organised by the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance, in partnership with the National Neisseria Network and the Communicable Diseases Network Australia was held on Friday 7 April 2017.

Meningococcal disease in Australia has increased from a nadir of 149 cases in 2013 to 253 cases in 2016, however this remains less than half the 688 cases notified in 2002. This increase has been driven by serogroups W and Y, which now account for >50% of cases. This workshop brought together national and international experts on meningococcal disease and heard the latest data from meningococcal B and ACWY vaccine programs in the United Kingdom. The workshop aimed to distill the best evidence to inform Australia’s response to meningococcal disease in 2017.


Resources from the Symposium

NB: Not all speakers were able to offer their presentation publicly as unpublished data was presented
PDFs of selected presentations are available from the following links. Please note files are large and may take a couple of minutes to download.

Trends in case numbers, age and serogroup specific incidence and mortality of invasive meningococcal disease in Australia 2001 - 2016 - Dr Jennie Hood
International context
- Prof. Peter McIntyre
Impact of meningococcal vaccines in UK 2001- 2016 - Dr Shamez Ladhani
New Zealand’s experience with starting and stopping meningococcal vaccine programs - Dr Amanda Kvalsvig
WA outbreak– lessons learned - Dr Paul Armstrong

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Congratulations to NCIRS Public Health Physician, Dr Anastasia Phillips, recipient of the 2016 Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine (AFPHM) Sue Morey Medal

Apr 2017 - News

NCIRS would like to congratulate Dr Anastasia Phillips, recipient of the 2016 Australasian Faculty of Public Health Medicine (AFPHM) Sue Morey Medal. The AFPHM Sue Morey Medal is awarded to the trainee who has achieved the highest mark in the AFPHM Oral Examination.

Dr Phillips completed the AFPHM Public Health Medicine Advanced Training Program in 2016 while working at NCIRS. She continues to work at the Centre, predominantly in vaccine safety surveillance, and is a PhD Candidate with the University of Sydney. Dr Phillips also holds an academic appointment as Clinical Associate Lecturer with the School of Public Health, University of Sydney.



Is there a test your child can take before getting vaccinated, as Pauline Hanson said?

Mar 2017 - News

In this article published in The Conversation, Associate Professor Kristine Macartney (NCIRS), Associate Professor Nicholas Wood (NCIRS) and Associate Professor Julie Leask (University of Sydney) address the comments made by Senator Hanson in a recent interview on Insiders. Senator Hanson commented that people should have a test to see if they have a reaction to a vaccine before they are vaccinated. These experts in infectious diseases and immunisation state "Immunisation programs prevent millions of deaths worldwide each year. Vaccine safety monitoring – what experts call vaccine pharmacovigilance – as well as many other checks and balances before and after vaccines registration, ensure that vaccines have a minimal risk of causing harm. There is no blood test to see if vaccines shouldn’t be given. In fact, the best 'test' for deciding if a vaccine is appropriate is taking a good old medical history." 

Read the full article here.


ATAGI 2017 Influenza Statement and updated Influenza Chapter of the Handbook published online

Mar 2017 - News

The following two items have been published on the Immunise Australia website:

1. The Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI) 2017 Influenza Statement, and

2. The updated Influenza chapter of The Australian Immunisation Handbook, 10th Edition (2017 Update)

These two publications are designed to complement each other.

December 2016 - Newsletter

Dec 2016 - Newsletters

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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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Media contact: Elizabeth Williams on (02) 9845 3572 or


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

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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.

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