RACGP urges RSV immunisation rollout to keep vulnerable Victorian infants safe

Royal Australian College of GPs

The Royal Australian College of GPs (RACGP) has called on the Victorian Government to follow other states’ lead and commit to rolling out an RSV immunisation program that will save lives.

Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is common respiratory infection which mostly affects young children, including babies. The symptoms are usually mild and manageable at home; however, some children and adults can become extremely ill and require hospital treatment. There were more than 128,000 cases reported last year Australia-wide, causing symptoms that ranged from mild to life-threatening.

The Federal Department of Health and Aged Care’s disease surveillance tool shows cases in Victoria have increased from 3,400 cases in the first quarter of 2024 to 8,584 cases in the current, second quarter, surpassing Queensland in May.

More than half of all RSV cases are among infants and children under five. Research has found RSV is likely the most common reason for hospital presentation among infants aged 12 months or younger, and there has been a steady growth in global RSV hospitalisations since 2009.

Immunisation is available however, and clinical trials indicate an injectable antibody can reduce hospitalisations by 83%. Previously, the College welcomed action to tackle RSV through infant immunisation in Western Australia, New South Wales, and Queensland.

RACGP Victoria Chair Dr Anita Muñoz said immunisations for vulnerable infants will save lives.

“This is an opportunity to prevent hospitalisation of babies and saves lives,” she said.

“Other states have taken action here, either making immunisations available to all new babies or through more targeted efforts.

“RSV is a serious disease that puts children in hospital every year. People may not realise the enormous health burden it places on children five and under in Australia. Not only is it likely the number one cause of hospitalisation among young children, up to a quarter of them need intensive care treatment. That’s an absolute nightmare for a young family to go through.

“With an immunisation program to match the one in Western Australia, we can keep children out of hospital beds, save families from a terrible experience, and be proactive about public health to relieve pressure on our health system, including our already under-pressure hospitals.”


/Public Release.