12 May 2023

Free vaccine for Japanese encephalitis available in Young next week

| Daniel Burdon
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Mosquito numbers rise

Residents of Young and surrounds are being invited to a free vaccine program next week to protect against Japanese encephalitis.

Residents from Young and Hilltops Shire are being offered free immunisation next week to protect against Japanese encephalitis (JE), with a vaccine delivery study returning to the town from 18 to 20 May.

Staff from the Murrumbidgee Local Health District and the National Centre for Immunisation Research and Surveillance (NCIRS) are currently undertaking a study into the effectiveness of intradermal administration of the JE vaccine Imojev, compared with current subcutaneous administration.

It is the second time the team working on the project will have visited Young to offer eligible residents the free vaccine, and follows the death of a Riverina man from JE in February last year – the first such death in New South Wales confirmed as a result of the mosquito-borne virus.

READ ALSO Riverina man first confirmed victim of Japanese encephalitis

JE is a rare but serious illness caused by the virus and is spread to humans via infected mosquitos.

While most infections are asymptomatic, some people with a severe infection can develop encephalitis, which can lead to death or permanent disability, but with no treatment for the disease, vaccination and taking steps to protect against mosquito bites remain the best ways to prevent infection.

NCIRS study lead Professor Nick Wood said the research was examining whether injecting the Imojev vaccine in a different part of someone’s skin could lower the necessary dosage.

“What we’re looking at with this study isn’t the vaccine itself as it’s been in use for decades; rather, what we’re investigating is whether giving a smaller dose into the layers of the skin [intradermal route] instead of under the skin [subcutaneously] is as effective in producing an immune response within the body and protecting against the virus,” he said.

READ ALSO NSW Health expands free access to Japanese encephalitis vaccine

Dr Tom Douch, a doctor in Young and study investigator, said if intradermal vaccination with the smaller dose proved effective it would mean more people could be protected sooner using the existing supply of vaccines.

Dr Douch said more than 150 locals had already taken up the offer of the free vaccine as part of the study and he encouraged everyone to protect themselves by taking part as the JE virus was “an extremely serious illness”.

Healthy people who are five years old or over, including women who are not pregnant, are eligible to take part and do not need to meet the ”mosquito exposure” requirements under the existing NSW Health free JE vaccination program.

The study clinic will operate at Young Services Club from 9 am to 5 pm from Thursday, 18 May, to Saturday, 20 May.

To book an appointment, call the study team on 0428 963 193.

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